Thursday, October 27, 2016

"Glare Is More Than A Nuisance - It Can Be Dangerous"

Glare is a fact of life. As long as there are light sources (including the sun) and reflective surfaces, there is going to be glare. Our challenge as aging-in-place professionals is to anticipate sources or issues of glare and to minimize or eliminate them to the extent possible. Some will just seem to happen despite our best efforts and intentions, but many can be avoided and treated.

Glare is not just an irritation to people when they experience it. It can be a major safety issue. It impacts depth perception, can temporarily impair vision with temporary blindness, and can stumbles or falls when people misjudge what is in front of them.

Recognizing that glare - or unexpected intense light reflections - can be uncomfortable all the way to painful and create accidents as well, we need to include the potential for glare when we do our home evaluations. We need to do them when the sun is at horizon levels in the morning and evening and at peak times in the middle of the day. These aren't the only times when glare is possible, but that will provide a good sampling from which to judge where issues are present and to plan a strategy to approach the issues.

Glare can be counted on to occur from natural light hitting and reflecting from wall mirrors, glass tabletops, shiny or polished floor surfaces, wall surfaces (painted or papered) with a sheen, computer and TV screens, picture frame glass, metal on objects such as plaques or trophies, countertops except ones that have a dull or matte finish, appliance fronts, and bounced light from window panes onto other shiny surfaces.

In addition to just being a nuisance that our eyes have to adjust to to be able to see what is in front of us, glare can cause surfaces to appear wet when they aren't or to look different that they do such as appear to be concave or have an unusual shape. In turn, this cause people to respond in unnatural ways to what they are seeing by trying not to step on something they perceive to be wet or unsafe - often by trying to redirect a step while their foot is in motion. This can lead to falls or twisted ankles.

Part of the issue with glare is the way that it appears unexpectedly - because we walk into an area where there is reflected light, we enter a room at the precise angle to have the light reflected at us (the reflection depends upon us being in the correct line for the reflected light to affect us), or the angle of the sun changes (or come out from a cloud) and created glare where it wasn't just a moment before.

We should consider glare to be a serious issue that our assessments and design need to consider in creating safe and comfortable living spaces for our clients. It can be dangerous when it exists so we need to proactively locate potential sources of the glare and then take steps to eliminate where it might be.

Part of our service to our clients is keeping them safe in the living environments - safe from unusual torment (glare in their eyes) and safe from slipping, falling, or bumping into objects because those objects were temporarily blocked or obscured by glare.

____________

Steve HoffackerCAPS, C.E.A.C., MCSP, MIRM, is a licensed Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist instructor and best-selling author of universal design books. To learn about this and other programs for aging-in-place or universal design, visit stevehoffacker.com or call 561-685-5555.