The Norfolk & Norwich Association for The Blind
Improved lighting conditions can make a positive impact on your quality of life
Lighting: Why is it important? Did you know …
- People at sixty require 3 x more light than when they were twenty.
- Enhanced lighting is often, but not always, beneficial because for some, glare can be debilitating.
- The older eye takes longer to adapt to changing light levels: have consistent, controllable light throughout your home.
Different types of lighting:
General lighting – provides background room lighting, enabling inhabitants to move around safely. Can be produced by natural or electric sources.
Task lighting – directs light where it is needed for close-up tasks (a flexible, portable desk lamp, for example). Increasing the amount of light on a task makes it easier and less tiring.
Natural daylight – making the most of this will improve the general light in your home during the day, although direct sunlight/glare needs to be controlled by blinds.
Electric lighting – provides an adequate amount of light in a space as well as an appropriate appearance by influencing the choice of ceiling/wall-mounted lights bulbs and lampshades.
Surfaces and contrasts – increasing contrast between different room surfaces, such as floor and walls, can make orientation easier.
Recommendations for lighting your:
Kitchen: Fluorescent strips fitted to the ceiling will provide good general lighting. However, this could cause shadows when a person is working on a surface – adding under-cupboard lights can help. Lights over the hob can allow you to see contents of pans.
Hallway and Stairs: This is crucial for safety. Lighting at the head and foot of staircases reduces the risk of falls (be sure to use bulbs that reach full brightness immediately).
Check the colour contrast of floors. Heavily patterned carpets cause visual confusion when trying to distinguish the edge of stairs, which can be dangerous.
Miniature fluorescent lights can be mounted in hall cupboards under shelves, to make finding items – such as jackets or clothing – easier.
Lounge: Lighting in the lounge should be flexible, controllable and varied – using a combination of ceiling, wall and task lights. The most important aim is an even distribution of light. Task lights can be used for reading or completing specific tasks.
Free-standing up lighters can brighten dark corners, and round diffusing shades on ceiling lights distribute light evenly. Avoid lights that expose bulbs.
Bathroom: Good general lighting can be achieved by some fluorescent light with a good diffuser to minimise glare and protect against moisture. Mirrors with in-built lighting can help. A pull-cord to switch lights on should be a contrasting colour to the wall.
Bedroom: Good general lighting can be supplemented by table lamps/task lights for activities like taking medication or reading in bed. Lighting in wardrobes helps to make choosing clothing easier.
Practical Hints: General Lighting:
- Make the most of natural light! Keep windows and net curtains clean, and keep curtains back from the window to let light through.
- Ensure that window surrounds are painted white or a light colour to reflect light.
- Blinds – especially those with vertical slats – can help control the amount and direction of daylight coming into the room during the day.
- A good, even distribution of light throughout the home is very important. Avoid shadows, dark corners and ‘pools’ of light.
- The best way to make a room brighter is to illuminate the ceiling and top half of the walls.
- Paint ceilings and walls a light colour to reflect light around the room.
- Light coloured lamp shades provide more general light than dark ones.
- Avoid lamps that allow people to look directly at the bulb.
- Use a round shade, as they spread light evenly around the room without producing a glare problem.
- Use switches and dimmers to control the amount of light necessary.
- Wall lights should have a solid shade or cover in order to reduce glare from the bulb.
Choosing Light Fittings:
Angle and cylindrical shades – these are very common. Angled shades fitted upside down are called ‘up lighters’ and are effective on white ceilings.
Round – these are ball-type shades often made of paper. Cheap and easy to fit, they can eliminate glare.
Multi-arm pendant light – is a fitting that hangs from the ceiling with several bulbs fitted with glass shades. Use frosted bulbs to reduce glare.
Fluorescent light – as strip lights these are often used in kitchens (ceiling mounted). Diffuser covers should be used to control glare. Smaller round or square fittings are suitable for hallways and bathrooms.
Spot lights – These provide directional light onto specific areas, but can create ‘pools’ of light that can be problematic. Use these to supplement other types of general lighting.
These fittings are lower and closer to the eye and therefore can cause glare. Choose one that reflects light up and out across the wall and ceiling, with a concealed bulb.
Choosing Light Bulbs:
About: Often used in the kitchen. Come in a variety of colours.
Advantages: 5x more efficient than old-style bulbs* lasting 8x longer.
Disadvantages: Requires specialist, costly dimming switches to adjust light levels.
About: These are Fluorescent tubes bent into shapes to make them compact (also known as CFLs or compact fluorescents).
Advantages: Efficient, and do not get too hot. Life expectancy of 8000+ hours.
Disadvantages: Often not dimmable. Do not reach full brightness instantaneously, though the most recent versions light up more quickly than older versions.
About: Produces bright ‘white’ light.
Advantages: Dimmable. Reaches full light output immediately.
Disadvantages: Not as energy efficient as fluorescent or energy-saving bulbs. Produce a great deal of heat.
LED: (light emitting diode)
Advantages: Cheap to run and long-lasting; everyday use will become more widespread in future.
Disadvantages: Can be expensive.
*Tungsten/GLS old-style inefficient bulbs are being progressively phased out altogether.
Adjustable task lights use compact fluorescent bulbs to produce a good spread of light without getting too hot. Arms and shades can be adjusted to suit your needs, and the brightness levels can vary considerably:
- Desk lights adjust for use at desks or tables and give high levels of light for a specific task. Some have flexible arms.
- Floor-standing lights can be placed next to a chair or table for reading, etc. Some can be directed upwards.
- Portable task lights make it simple to use one light for many tasks around your home.
LED lights – which produce fairly low levels of light but are long-lasting and ideal for use in cupboards – and book lights for reading are also options.
Hints for desk and floor task lights:
- A longer, horizontal bulb gives a great spread of light, ideal for leisurely tasks like reading.
- An adjustable task light should be placed on a table with the light shining directly on the task, positioned below eye level between you and your newspaper or book etc. to avoid glare.
- The amount of illumination on an object increases four-fold if the distanced between the lamp and the object is halved.
- Be aware of heavy bases, for safety reasons.
- Sit with your back to the window during the daylight hours to let natural light shine over your shoulder onto what you are doing.
- Be mindful of trailing wires to avoid any potential trips or falls.