Otago Polytechnic
Lighting Project still

Meeting lighting needs

A team has been working with visually impaired people to help them choose appropriate lighting.

Many of those who suffer from impaired vision are not aware that appropriate lighting can help them to see better. Mary Butler and a team of occupational therapy students have explored how adult education principles could be used effectively to communicate the science of lighting, in ways that empowered the visually impaired people (VIPs) to meet their own lighting needs at a low cost.

Most of the 17 participants were in their 80s and 90s. All of them were visited by OT students and given a lighting prescription based on the results of standardised assessments. Education about lighting science occurred through focus groups with the VIPs, to increase understanding of how improved lighting could help, and a thematic analysis of learning by participants was carried out. All of the participants made significant changes and several were amazed at the amount of difference that good lighting made to them.   

To complement the project work with study participants, the students provided free lighting needs assessments at a public stall in the Octagon on World Sight Day (16th October 2016). Light meters were also taken to the cafes around the Octagon and a reading was taken of the light at the Eftpos machine. The students also created a film record of their work. The premiere was accompanied by very dynamic discussion with a panel of experts on visual impairment and lighting.

Results of the project are being used to develop and carry out workshops for occupational therapists and several consumer groups, using a basic portable lighting clinic, so that lighting assessments can be carried out more widely. Local lighting shops have been become actively involved and provide discounts and more reliable advice to VIPs.