As a counselor, Tim has taught independent living skills (shopping, cooking, etc.) to his clients and students with disabilities.
Importance of Maintaining Independence
Living with vision loss requires adapting to the unique circumstances brought on by reduced access to the visual environment. Routine activities such as shopping, doing laundry, or reading the mail can be difficult for people with reduced vision. However, professionals assist individuals with visual impairments in learning how to do these tasks in the area of independent living. As for anyone, having a system for conducting such duties is a necessity. As a rehabilitation counselor with TVI training, I’ve helped people with visual impairments develop skills for performing various tasks, including carrying out laundry duties.
Truthfully, organization is paramount to success in living independently regardless of abilities. Primarily, people with vision loss and others may need to break down tasks into separate steps for maximum efficiency. Available spaces and tools must be utilized skillfully. Furthermore, having an organized system for performing laundry reduces unpredictable outcomes, such as poorly matched clothing for the current weather. In addition, time is saved. For these reason, this article assumes a person with vision loss has access to a manually operated washer and dryer in the home.
1. Mark the various settings on the washer and dryer with tape or puffy stickers
Identification of settings on a washer or dryer is crucial. The person with vision loss can adjust the settings on the machines as needed based on the load of laundry: cold, warm, or hot. He/she can also set the temperature and time on the dryer. When marking these machines, show the individual with vision loss how to operate switches, buttons, or dials. Elderly individuals or people with cognitive problems can also benefit from such markings. Indeed, additional appliances can be marked this way as well, assisting various groups: microwave, stove, blenders, etc.
2. Recognize most items can be washed in the cold cycle.
Most clothing can be washed in the cold cycle of the washer. Yet, some items have sensitive dyes for colors. Help the person with a visual impairment identify those special items by texture. Keep them in a separate drawer or area in a closet. Explain the directions to the person with vision loss on how to proceed with washing these items with care. Likewise, individuals with learning disabilities could benefit from such a strategy.
3. Use safety pins.
Use pins to keep socks together in the wash and during drying. This strategy allows for the individual with a visual impairment to not have to worry about matching socks when the laundry is finished and clothes are put away. Searching for socks can be a problem for anyone after drying clothing, and this strategy would help many different groups.
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4. Separate clothes for wearing as laundry is finished.
Fold and separate clothing after the laundry is done, making dressing a simple affair. Most shirts have a tag on the inside at the neck line, indicating size. The person with a vision loss can use this to determine if a shirt is inside out. With pants, the seam can be felt to determine the same thing. Place shirts together in one place. Have a different place for pants, and do this for all garments. By putting similar items away in one location, a person with a visual impairment can decide when laundry duties are needed, and such a strategy helps other groups as well.
5. Incorporate solid colors into everyday wear.
Many individuals with visual impairments prefer to wear solid colored clothing: white shirts with black pants, for instance. A person with low vision can better detect if a particular garment is fading after laundry is finished. Also, stains can be noticed quicker. Likewise, matching is easier for a person who is totally blind. In essence, having solid colored garments as a part of a wardrobe increases flexibility without sacrificing much choice.
6. Utilize available spaces and be creative with resources.
Shoe boxes, clothes hangers, and baskets are useful tools. Utilize shoe boxes in the closet to help determine when items, such as sneakers, require cleaning. Also, shoe boxes help keep pairs of shoes together, saving time for dressing. Hang ties with suit jackets, reducing time in matching these items later. Hang washable clothing on one side of the closet, and things which need dry cleaning on the other. Finally, when clothing is dirty, place them in a clothes basket. These strategies enhance organization while limiting time required for dressing for individuals with vision loss. Yet, other groups, such as individuals with mobility issues, people with learning disabilities, or older people, can put these practices to good use.
7. Use soap pods in the laundry.
Soap pods are generally easier to handle than liquid or powder detergent. One soap pod usually equals one load of clothing. A person with vision loss benefits from predictability without having to deal with measuring detergent. Also, elderly individuals, mothers with children, and many other groups can use this technique for speed when starting the clothes in the wash. Individuals with limited hand strength can benefit from using soap pods instead of trying to deal with other types of detergents.
Final Thoughts about Independent Living
These are basic guidelines for people with visual impairments to complete laundry tasks without the need for Braille labels on different types of apparel. But some may feel the desire to add labels to their clothing for identification. There are several vendors which carry these products easily located on the internet. However, specialists in the fields of visual impairment and rehabilitation instruct and counsel people who have vision loss in a wide variety of areas, including independent living. Completing laundry tasks are not the only daily living activities these professionals tackle.
For example, orientation and mobility specialists teach safe and efficient travel. Rehabilitation counselors work with people with visual impairments and other disabilities to secure employment. Also, rehabilitation teachers can assist with activities related to living independently. Extensive factors must be carefully scrutinized to determine which professionals will work with an individual with vision loss at any given time. Once a team is assembled, evaluations begin to develop a feasible plan with the goal being independence. Yet, rehabilitation professionals approach vision loss in a holistic manner. Psychological, emotional, and physical aspects, along with other characteristics, of the individual with a visual impairment are ascertained during assessments. Below are some of the considerations professionals in these fields explore:
Several Factors Considered by Professionals in the Fields of Rehabilitation and Visual Impairments
- Does the person with vision loss live in a city, rural community, or the suburbs?
- Has the individual loss vision gradually or suddenly? What is the age of onset of the disability?
- Does the person have family support? Is he/she involved with the community in any way?
- Is the visual condition stable? Will further eye treatment be required?
- Can the person travel with a cane?
- Does bright lighting impact the individual’s visual performance?
- Will the person need a college education or other training to become employed?
- Is the person able to maintain his home with modifications and special aids?
- Are there other medical complications? Does the individual with a visual impairment have diabetes, cognitive issues, etc.?
- Has the person with a visual impairment adjusted psychologically to the loss of sight?
This content is for informational purposes only and does not substitute for formal and individualized diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed medical professional. Do not stop or alter your current course of treatment. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.