Most domestic lighting does not include the specific needs of people with low vision. This study has developed new concepts for the market by working closely with users and occupational therapists to illuminate the key areas of concern.
Prevalence of sight loss increases with age. It has been estimated that one in eight people aged over 75 years and one in three people over 90 years have serious (registerable) sight loss. This equates to some 600,000 people over 75 years old. But around two million individuals in the UK have sight loss that affects their everyday lives. This is a sizeable market that is set to grow as a result of a rapidly ageing population whose sight will deteriorate as part of the natural ageing process. This study in partnership with a leading sight loss charity set out to improve home lighting for older people and those with low vision – but the benefits of an inclusive approach are also relevant to the wider market.
The first year of the project examined the critical role of good lighting in enabling individuals with low vision to live more independently, complete daily tasks and light their homes in a more attractive way. The work uncovered limitations in the standard lighting fixtures currently available and developed three new concepts that each responded to an area of critical concern for the user group consulted. Tack addressed navigation around the house, Frame increased the overall illumination in a room and Candle was portable task lighting that could be carried wherever needed.
Developing the designs
The second year of work began to develop these three designs and bring them closer to market. The concepts aimed to harness the potential of emerging LED technologies and achieve more seamless interaction between the lighting objects and the users. The research targeted two groups – sight professionals who gave expert insight and advice, and the low vision users themselves.
Four homes were selected and the three prototypes were delivered to residents to test them and give feedback. An accompanying probe kit containing a variety of prompts and recording equipment encouraged participants to articulate their thoughts in a more expressive manner. There was an even spread of age ranges and a variety of eye conditions amongst the users. A teenager and her family were added to the user group to widen the age range and place the prototypes within a family setting.
Lighting up industry
The feedback from this research resulted in multiple suggestions and these were ranked according to user preference. A competitor analysis coupled with a market feasibility study conducted by the Imperial College Business School at Imperial College London helped to further define direction. As a result, Spin Light was designed, informed by the research, it develops upon the functional appeal of Candle. It provides good illumination to create ambience or atmosphere but can be carried and positioned by the user to provide strong, focused task lighting where needed. The design is easy to handle, is stable when positioned on a flat surface and ‘docks’ to recharge like a mobile phone. A special hinge allows the light source to spin around and remain in position with no need for any locking mechanism.
Alongside this, a lightweight, portable kit of existing lighting products similar to Tack, Frame and Candle was developed for occupational therapists and rehabilitation officers to take on home visits. This tackles the immediate need to improve lighting for people with low vision as the Spin Light starts on the long and challenging route to market in discussion with potential manufacturers.