Task (or Directed) Lighting

Daylight and general room lighting may not always be sufficient for what you have to do, especially if the work at hand requires precision – such as sewing, mechanical and home repairs, or slicing and chopping vegetables. Most people with vision loss find that task – also called “directed” – lighting to be the most useful form of light. In addition, positioning of a light source is critical when carrying out many daily living tasks. For suggestions on how to set up task lighting most effectively, you can watch the following videos: video Positioning a Light Source Video video Overview of the Inverse Square Law of Lighting Video The types of adjustable and task lights mentioned in this section can be obtained from a variety of sources (including locally at office supply or hardware stores).

Adjustable Lighting

Adjustable task lamps are equipped with an adjustable arm and flexible head that allow you to point light where you need it. They can be floor- or desk-standing or wall-mounted. When using adjustable lamps, keep the following points in mind:
  • The bulb should be recessed into the shade to reduce glare and to avoid accidental burns.
  • When using an adjustable lamp, position the shade below eye level with the light directed onto whatever you’re working with.
  • The light should shine onto the task from a 45-degree angle so that excess light shines away from your eyes.
Task lighting for paying bills Focus an adjustable lamp directly on the task
  • You can place the lamp as close as 6 inches (15 cm) from the task. Reposition the lamp if the light is too bright or glare is reflecting into your eyes.
  • To be safe, always use adjustable task lamps in conjunction with general room lighting. When you move away from the task, you should be able to see where you are going.
video Use of Adjustable Lighting Video Be sure to assess your visual comfort with each type of light bulb before you buy. Many people with low vision prefer a full spectrum fluorescent desk lamp since it is a cool light, or a desk lamp that’s wired for a 60- or 100-watt full spectrum light bulb. Remember:
  • Magnifiers can amplify task lighting when you need to see fine detail. When using a lamp with a hand or stand magnifier, be sure to place the lamp so that the light is shining underneath the magnifying lens. This prevents light from shining onto the lens and causing painful glare.
  • You can purchase hand and stand magnifiers through specialty product sources, though higher magnification is generally not available to the public without a prescription. It is recommended that you consider having a low vision examination to determine what type of magnification will help you perform specific tasks, and if needed, to obtain higher magnification.
  • People with some eye conditions, such as retinitis pigmentosa, experience night blindness and need additional, higher-powered lighting. You’ll find more tips on what to do in this situation in the AccessWorld® article Lighting Up Your Night Life by Bryan Gerritsen.

Portable Lighting

Portable lighting (a.k.a., your trusty flashlight) can be very useful for looking inside cupboards and closets, navigating dimly lighted areas, or finding keyholes in the middle of the night. Small pocket flashlights are also great for nights out on the town, providing an effective, unobtrusive means for reading restaurant menus and theater playbills. Keep one flashlight in the kitchen and one in your pocket or handbag at all times. Another portable option is hands-free lighting, which can be mounted on a headband like a miner’s lamp. Take a look around any bingo hall and you’ll see several players with lighted headbands. This is also an excellent option for card players (your hands are free to deal) and music enthusiasts (whether you play an instrument or sing in your church choir). Clamp-on book lights provide hands-free lighting for reading. Portable Lighting Buyer’s Guide:
  • LED or halogen bulbs give a bright, white light but the beam of light can be quite narrow. Fluorescent portable lights are also available, but may not produce enough light for your needs.
  • Try not to get a light that is too heavy to hold in one hand for extended periods of time.
  • Battery changes should be quick and easy. Avoid lights that require a screwdriver to open the battery holder.
  • Always try out the light before you buy to make sure that you can use it without problems.

Recessed Lighting

Recessed lighting is one of the best ways you can modify your environment for living with vision loss. Recessed lights are cylindrical cans that are inserted into the ceilings (usually by a licensed electrician) and can be placed strategically to illuminate hallways, kitchens, bedrooms and study rooms. Recessed lights can use flood or spot bulbs. These are dimmable and provide you with a high degree of flexibility. An 85-watt flood bulb in a recessed light offers excellent ambient light while the use of halogen spot bulbs can illuminate specific work areas such as desks, stoves, and eating areas without causing glare. Recessed lights are available in a large variety of sizes and styles.

Track Lighting

Nearly as effective as the recessed option – and much more affordable – is track lighting. Track lighting consists of a ceiling-mounted rail or track fitted with a series of small, adjustable light fixtures. The lights can be pointed in any direction and are very effective at illuminating desks, dining areas, and other work areas. Track lights can use both incandescent and low-voltage halogen bulbs. Track lighting fixtures tend to produce a narrower beam than recessed lights. However, since track bulbs use less energy, you can add more lights where the need is greatest. Please note, however, that halogen lights are very hot, can be dangerous, and may not be allowed in many settings, such as assisted living facilities.

For More Information

Information for this article was adapted from Use of Lighting from Vision Australia, and Lighting and Vision from The Dr. Bill Takeshita Foundation.