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Choosing a wallpaper for the blind or visually impaired

November 07,2022

Our home decoration choices often come down to just pretty photos in magazines or on our screens... as if decorating your place would not involve any sense other than sight. As a result, we only rarely mention the decorative qualities of a wallpaper from a point of view other than the visual one. However, every occupant of any home has his/her own needs and perceptions, even if he/she is visually impaired.

According to estimates made in 2000, the worldwide population of people suffering from a visual disability is made up of 50 million blind people and 135 million visually impaired people. As the population ages, these numbers are constantly rising. Therefore, it is especially useful to understand how broader decoration concepts, and particularly wallpaper, can contribute to the well-being of visually impaired people and what the selection criteria are.


How does wallpaper contribute to the well-being of the blind and visually impaired?

How wallpaper is a significant part of decoration, appealing to the 5 senses

Sight: From total blindness to almost perfect sight, visual acuity is very variable. For the blind (non-sighted, etymologically deprived of sight), the

learning process and feelings will be different whether they are blind from birth or because of an accident or illness. People can have severe, moderate, or mild visual impairment, they may or may not be able to see light (importance of sunlight and artificial light), shapes (importance of contrast), and colours (for instance colour blindness)... These characteristics must be considered when choosing a wallpaper.

Touch: The sense of touch is probably the most important for the blind. The texture of the decorative surface is a decisive factor in terms of how the material feels (smooth or rough, warm, or cold, flexible, or stiff, etc.), but also in the relief. The wallpaper relief thickness and patterns allow the blind person not only a concrete representation (tactile recognition of the design) but also a mental representation (evocative power of the pattern). Touch also affects other aspects resulting from the contact between the environment and the human body, for instance warmth, security, and movement fluidity. Wallpapers can also contribute to thermal insulation: Heating wallpaper is an innovation in development; reflecting materials (metallic wallpaper) help to store heat and release it. Wallpapers might also facilitate and make safer the movement of blind and visually impaired people in their homes, serving as landmarks and guides.


Hearing: The blind’s auditory facility often compensates for their lack of eyesight. The home decoration must emphasise reference noises, muffle unwanted noises and promote comfortable listening. The choice of wall coverings plays a key role in the accommodation’s acoustic insulation. The soundproofing efficiency of a wallpaper is measured by the Noise Reduction Coefficient, NRC, and the Sound Absorption Coefficient, SRC.

Smell: Any home contains all sorts of smells, more or less noticeable depending on a person’s level of sensitivity. Ecological, pollutant-free wallpaper increases your olfactory well-being by reducing volatile organic compounds. A clever choice will avoid chemical glue odours and emissions caused by heat. Some wallpapers also help with mould prevention as they naturally regulate humidity.

Taste and other senses: Sense of balance, sense of direction, ability to feel magnetic fields and electrical fields, ability to sense a place with the ears, memory, intuition... These qualities that every human being possesses or can develop are particularly useful for a blind person. All the information transmitted by our senses and the emotions they trigger allow us to determine whether an atmosphere seems reassuring or worrying.