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How to create an accessible home for deaf and hard of hearing people

accessible home for deaf and hard of hearing people

There are many changes, both big and small, that can be made to a home in order to fit the needs and preferences of those who live in it.

For example, people with hearing loss may prefer special accommodations to reduce environmental sounds, improve safety and enhance the ability to see or communicate. Some homes may already include a good number of these features. Others may need a little work. Preferences will vary from person to person, but keeping the following ideas in mind can help move things in the right direction when looking for a new place, or customizing the home you’re in right now to be an accessible home for deaf and hard of hearing people. 

Layout and Construction

Open Floor Plan

Open floor plans can enhance one’s ability to see gestures and faces of the people they’d like to communicate with. Unnecessary walls and doors are a barrier that can separate living areas in a home. Luckily, open floor plans are a popular design choice for modern homes, increasing the number of options with this already “built-in”. In a home where this is not the case, it may still be possible to transition into a more open concept with relative ease — just make sure to be careful when removing walls

Sound-Dampening Windows

Background noises can be a nuisance or distraction for those with hearing loss who rely on hearing technology. Windows allow a lot of noise to enter the house throughout the day. Single pane windows, in particular, offer little protection from noises outside. Dual pane windows and heavy curtains can help cut back on exterior noises. 

Wider Hallways

People who sign or read lips need to see the person they’re communicating with during a conversation. Narrow hallways prevent people from walking side by side as they talk. Wider hallways enable people to better communicate while walking next to one another in the house. One suggestion from Gallaudet’s DeafSpace project is to opt for rounded corners over 90-degree corners for high-traffic areas. If this is not an attainable or realistic modification, utilizing decorations like mirrors at the ends/corners of hallways can help inhabitants avoid bumping into other members of the household.

Echo-Dampening Flooring, Ceilings and Walls

Echo-dampening floors, ceilings, and walls cut back on noise inside the house, preventing echoes from hindering communication. Carpeting has excellent echo-dampening properties. Special acoustic wall and ceiling material has the same effect. The vibrations caused by appliances like a washing machine might be particularly bothersome or annoying for some people. Modifications may be needed in and around the areas where they sit.

Tall ceilings cause noise to reverberate, potentially making life difficult for someone who is hard of hearing. For a person who is building their own home, it’s relatively easy to work low ceilings into the design of the house. For a homebuyer who is planning to purchase a pre-owned home, it’s easier to buy a home with relatively low ceilings than it is to convert a home with high ceilings.  

Soft Lighting and Colors

Soft paint colors in natural hues make it easier for people to see and process visual information. Paint and furniture colors that contrast with skin tones may help in a similar way. Gentle lighting also helps with these goals. Hanging sheers in the windows help soften daylight, creating a gentle glow indoors during the day. At night, light from multiple light fixtures can also be used to create a gentle glow in the house. This mimics the light found in the home throughout the day. 

Appliances & Technology

Technology can be used to improve safety around the house, and many products exist to assist with specific needs. Specialized smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors can alert homeowners to a problem by flashing bright lights and vibrating. The same types of alarms can also be used in smart security devices, which can help keep households safe from intruders. 

Read more: Technology comes home  

Motion activated lights can help illuminate the property and alert inhabitants when someone has arrived. Vibrations, blinking lights, and bright lights can help ensure that people running their appliances know when the appliances are finished. With the advent of smart technology, there may be even more gadgets and devices on their way in the future. This is one aspect of a home that may be the most customizable of all. It may require a good amount of research to truly understand one’s options.

Household Customizations Improve Quality of Life

Cutting out noise/distractions and improving sight lines throughout the home can be excellent ways to make communication easier for deaf and hard of hearing people. There are many ways that this can be done, depending on one’s budget or DIY skills. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to this, but these principles might help steer things in a productive direction. 

 

This guest blog post was written by Your At Home Team. Want to learn more about how to best customize your home? Visit the Your Home At Home Team blog!

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