Confession- I never did my own laundry until I went off to college, and had no idea how to do laundry with low vision. Sure, I had made attempts to do laundry at home, but I had never successfully run a full load of laundry until I was standing in my dorm laundry room, trying to figure out how to work the machine, and silently hoping I didn’t destroy all of my clothes within the first week of school.
I’ve learned a lot since then about doing my own laundry with vision impairment, so today I will be sharing tips for learning how to do laundry with a vision impairment, or just as a confused college student. This is an important activity of daily living and part of the expanded core curriculum for students with blindness and visual impairment.
One of the most useful items I bought before starting college was a three-section laundry bin. While it was very large, it helped me so much with sorting clothes and taking them down to the laundry room. I would toss dirty clothes into their appropriate compartment- sorting towels, delicates, and other items. This way, I did not have to worry about sorting laundry from one giant bin, and I could remove items from the smaller compartments to wash them as needed. Read more about
Before leaving for college, my mom used a special Sharpie marker to label whether to wash something in warm (W) or cold (C) water. Other options for labelling tags include using tactile clothing labels or reading instructions for washing clothes with an app that can read short amounts of text, like Be My Eyes or Seeing AI- more on that in a minute.
Free color readers
Students with limited or no color perception will benefit from using a color reader to determine the color of their clothing. However, color reading devices can be expensive and easily lost. Instead, consider using an app that can act as a basic color reader, like Seeing AI, for separating clothes by color.
One of my all-time favorite inventions that makes life easier is one of detergent pods, which are pre-measured amounts of liquid detergent that dissolves in the wash. Simply throw one of these in with your clothes and you don’t have to worry about spilling detergent everywhere. I use the All Free and Clear detergent pods. and one bulk-size package will last well through the school year.
Learning button layout
Every washing machine is slightly different, so it’s important to familiarize yourself with the button layout on the machine. My school washing machines don’t have tactile buttons, so I spent time magnifying them to figure out which buttons I needed to push in order to do a load of laundry. Luckily, I didn’t have to worry about dials or anything like that. Another bonus is that the most common wash settings are enabled by default, so sometimes all I have to do is press “start” and that’s it.
“Wait, which machine is mine again?”
Every student, vision impaired or not, can forget which washing machine or dryer is theirs, or have trouble locating their machine. One of the ways I get around this is by attaching a magnet to whatever machine I am using, so I can easily distinguish which machine is mine. Students who use Braille can go one step further and use Braille number magnets. I recommend using magnets with a distinctive shape or memorable tactile features. Here is an example of where I place the magnet, using a random magnet I got at a conference.
Laundry alert website
I found a webpage on my school’s housing website that allows students to see how many machines are available, how much time each machine has left, and gives students the options to receive an alert when a specific machine is finished or when a certain amount of washers/dryers are available (though this does not reserve machines). I highly recommend taking advantage of these websites, so that no one is left waiting in line for a dryer with wet clothes.
Using a swipe card
My building requires that students swipe their ID into a special machine in order to use the laundry facilities. Below, I have written out step by step directions, with pictures, on how to use this swipe system. Ignore the displays saying the cost to run the machines- laundry is included free of charge at my school, so I’m not sure why that is displayed.
Put the laundry in the machine, and push the appropriate buttons for laundry settings, but don’t press start. Note your machine number.
Swipe your card into the machine, which should look a bit like this. Listen for an auditory cue to confirm that the card was accepted
Select the button for your machine number. This menu is hard to read, and only displays available washing machines. I strongly recommend having a magnification aid of some sort. I usually use my phone as a video magnifier, but this is what the menu looks like normally.
Confirm your machine. Once confirmed, your machine will start beeping
Walk back to your desired machine and press start. The machine will blink like this, signalling for the user to press start and begin the laundry cycle.
Some colleges require that students pay for laundry using coins. These coin dispensers have tactile labels for where the coins should be placed.
I have trouble folding clothes, and it can be very tempting to throw everything over a chair and be done with it. My mom bought me this really useful folding contraption that allows me to fold items with ease. This mostly eliminates the problem of having clothes all over the floor.
With these tips, you won’t have to worry about waiting to do laundry until parents visit, or shipping dirty clothes home to be washed. While it may not be the most fun thing ever, it’s certainly not challenging to do your own laundry at college!