“Baby Proofing” Your Home When Your Child Is Blind or Low Vision
Your first and most basic consideration in adapting your home to meet your blind or low-vision baby’s special needs is safety. Take a look at your infant’s immediate surroundings—such as the crib, changing table, and playpen—and check for the following concerns:
- Infants and toddlers tend to chew or suck on any toys or household objects that they get their hands on, be sure anything within your baby’s reach is too big to be swallowed.
- See that larger toys or objects don’t have smaller, removable parts that could be chewed or pulled off and swallowed.
- Keep pillows, large stuffed animals, and other objects that could cover your baby’s face and interfere with breathing, out of your infant’s crib.
- Be sure that cords from window shades and blinds are out of reach. Babies and toddlers are apt to play with them and get entangled.
Because your baby has limited or perhaps no ability to observe you as you go about your daily activities, you may want to keep your child near you while you do chores. Just having your baby close enough to hear the sounds of your activities—running water, the various noises a washing machine makes, your voice humming as you fold the clean clothes—can give a reassuring sense of the immediate surroundings.
When Your Blind or Low-Vision Child Is on the Move
Parents generally worry about their children’s safety, but the parents of children with blindness or low vision often feel additional concern. When a child can’t see the surrounding environment clearly, it’s essential to pay special attention to maintaining a safe environment. Although a number of measures can help keep your baby safe while still an infant, first attempts at crawling or creeping mark a new stage in life and in yours as a parent. Once your child is no longer confined to the relative safety of the crib, playpen, infant seat, or blanket, they will need your help to learn about the world, but in a way that protects from potential harm. This is true for all children, but a child who can’t see possible hazards and obstacles needs to explore within an environment that’s been prescreened for safety.
To really see your home from your child’s vantage point, try exploring each room on your hands and knees. It’s a good way to find and eliminate possible danger spots that may not be evident from your adult—and taller—viewpoint.
- Most homes have various furnishings that are at a toddler’s head level. To help your child avoid injuries from running into the sharp edge of a table or shelf, you can buy commercially made corner protectors or devise your own “bumpers” using foam rubber or some similar material.
- Place a baby gate at the top and bottom of each flight of steps.
- Tape down the edges of small rugs—or better yet, remove the rugs—so they don’t suddenly slip out from under your toddler.
- Remember to keep room, closet, and cabinet doors closed so your child won’t bump into them. Your child may not be able to see these as they moves about a room.
- Avoid tablecloths that hang over the edge of a table.
- Remind everyone in the family to put away toys, clothes, and other belongings and not leave them on the floor where they could be tripped over. A child with blindness or low vision may not see items on the floor, even when there is good contrast. Keeping walkways clear will be important for your child’s safety throughout her life.
- Keep glass and other fragile items such as lamps in a protected place—for example, in a corner blocked off by chairs on either side that your toddler can’t yet climb.
- Child-proof your cabinets. Keep household cleaners and medications of any kind in cabinets that your child can’t open. Safety locks are available for cabinets, drawers, toilets, and even doorknobs, that are easy for you to open but difficult for children.
- Add electrical outlet covers and electric cord shorteners to your shopping list. They’ll keep your child’s curious fingers safe from shock and keep from tripping over or getting entangled in cords.
Don’t leave your child, or any baby or toddler, alone in an area that can’t be made completely safe, such as in a bathtub full of water or in the kitchen when the stove is on.
Other Safety Measures to Consider
- Don’t leave pet food and water bowls on the floor where a small child might be tempted to play in them; likewise, if you have a litter box for your pet, put it in an inaccessible area.
- If your child has low vision, remember that contrast will help them see important demarcations, such as a change from light flooring to dark flooring between rooms and, especially, at the top and bottom of stairs.
- If your child doesn’t have vision, they will benefit from tactile cues in your home. You might even consider changing the flooring to help differentiate between areas.