Independence at home

If you have a disability that makes living alone difficult, making some adaptations to your home may help. You may also get extra support to help you live in your own home, including anyone is blind, deaf or visually or hearing impaired.

Living in your own home

If you need improvements and adaptations to your home so you can continue to live there independently, you may qualify for help.

A health and social care assessment with the social services department of your local trust is often the first step towards getting the help and support you need. Following an assessment your occupational therapist may recommend types of equipment and ideas about adapting your home.

You may also be entitled to financial help, such as a Disabled Facilities Grant, to pay for adaptations or improvements to your home.

Independent living support

The Independent Living Fund (ILF) provides payments to people with severe disabilities. The payment can be used to help you live independently, for example by employing a personal assistant.

Help from the Housing Executive

Your local Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) office can tell you about services and about the housing association properties in your area - and can advise you which may be suitable for you.

The housing office can also tell you about supported or sheltered housing and care homes in your area. Supported or sheltered housing enables people to live independently but with extra daily support.

Independent living if you are blind or visually impaired

There is range of equipment available to help you live independently at home if you're blind or visually impaired.

Help from your local trust

Aids and equipment are often provided through your local trust. The Health Service Hospital Eye Service can also prescribe a range of aids for people with partial sight.

All blind and visually impaired people are entitled to a health and social care assessment from their local trust. This means someone from the trust will assess your needs to make sure you get the equipment and services that are right for you.

Your local trust may put you in touch with a rehabilitation worker, who can help you learn new ways to manage everyday tasks.

Rehabilitation workers can also teach you how to get around safely and how to communicate more easily - for example, by teaching you to type or use writing aids and communication software.

Everyday equipment to make life easier

Tools and gadgets

A wide range of tools and gadgets are available that make it easier for blind and visually impaired people to manage household tasks. A few examples are:

  • devices that alert you when a pot of liquid begins to boil
  • gadgets that make a sound when a cup or container you're pouring liquid into is nearly full
  • knives with an adjustable guide to help you cut slices of even thickness
  • tactile watches and alarm clocks

You can buy products designed specifically for blind and visually impaired people and get advice on specialist equipment from some charities and other organisations, including the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB).

Accessible technology and telephones

Computer products and telephone systems that are particularly useful for blind and visually impaired people include:

  • mobile phones with tactile, well-spaced buttons and a function that reads text messages aloud
  • telephones with a very large colour-contrasting keypad
  • computer screen readers
  • magnification software

Equipment and services for leisure at home

Sight loss doesn't have to mean that you can't enjoy television, books and other printed media like newspapers and magazines. Some products that may be helpful include:

  • talking books and talking newspapers
  • Braille, Moon and large print books and magazines
  • audio description for television
  • magnifiers for television screens

If you're registered blind, you're entitled to a 50 per cent discount on your television licence.

Independent living if you are deaf or hearing impaired

There is a range of equipment available for deaf and hearing impaired people to use at home. It includes textphones, listening devices and alerting devices, such as specially adapted doorbells and alarm clocks.

Equipment and aids for home and work

Help is available with everyday situations involving telephones, textphones and listening equipment. Extra aids include induction loops which work with your hearing aid, alarms, alarm clocks, doorbells and teletext adapters.

You can get equipment and advice about the different types of aids available from social services, National Health Service audiology departments and voluntary organisations.

Telephone aids

Devices to help you use the telephone include:

  • handsets with inductive couplers
  • amplifiers
  • extension bells
  • text display

The Text Relay service

Text Relay is the national text to voice relay service. It allows you to communicate with hearing people over the telephone network, using a relay assistant.

Text Relay is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Calls are charged at your telecommunications provider's standard rate. There is no additional charge for this service. Because calls from a textphone can take longer, your telecommunications provider should offer a refund on textphone calls.

How to use the Text Relay service

When making a call from a textphone, dial dial 18001 then the full phone number of the person you want to call, including the area code (and international country code if you're calling outside the UK).

When making a call from a telephone, dial 18002 then the full phone number of the person you want to call, including the area code (and international country code if you're calling outside the UK).

Alarm clocks and watches

Alarm clocks for deaf or hard of hearing people can work in different ways. The key features for clocks are that they:

  • vibrate under the pillow to alert the user
  • have a flashing light
  • have an extra loud sound alarm

You can also buy watches that vibrate.

Doorbells and equipment that alert you to sounds in your home

As well as doorbells that alert you by a flashing light or a very loud ringing bell, there are other multi-alerting systems that can be used to attract your attention to different sounds in your home - for example when the telephone rings.

Smoke alarms and fire safety

You can get smoke alarms that use strobed light and vibrating pads to warn you at the first sign of fire.

Vibrating pad smoke alarms are specially fitted with a vibrating pad which is connected to the smoke alarm and can be placed under your pillow or mattress. The pad vibrates when the alarm is activated. Strobe lights which are fitted to a smoke alarm will emit a flashing strobe light warning when the smoke alarm is activated.

Linked alarms are connected to all the other smoke alarms in the building and ensure that if any one smoke smoke alarm is activated, it triggers all linked alarms. This means that even if the fire is some distance from where you are, you will know about it and can leave the building before it gets any closer to you.

It is recommended that you contact a qualified electrician to install linked alarms.

Television and home entertainment

Television subtitles and sign language translation of TV programmes are improving access to TV for deaf and hearing impaired people.

Health and social care assessments

As assessment by your local trust means that a specialist may look at your individual needs so the right support, including equipment, can be provided.

Communication support

Communication support includes British Sign Language (BSL) interpreters, lipspeakers and notetakers. Find out about how it can be arranged and examples of communication support in certain situations.

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