Veronica With Four Eyes

Adapting Keys For Visual Impairment

I received a question from a reader who has a family member who is losing their sight asking about adapting keys for visual impairment, and how to keep track of keys with low vision. Their family member carries several different keys for different places, and needs to be able to tell them apart easily, as well as keep them organized. Here are my tips for storing keys with visual impairment that can apply to both traditional keys and key cards.

Use bright colors or tactile dots to tell keys apart

When I was cleaning out my dorm at the end of my third year of college, I found four identical-looking bronze keys, and had no idea what they went to. While I eventually figured out what one of those keys was meant for, the other three still remain a mystery. In order to keep things like this from happening, I recommend getting keys in different bright/high contrast colors when possible, or adding small tactile dots such as Bump-Dots to the top of the keys so that they can be easier to distinguish. Alternatively, users can paint the tops of existing keys with vibrantly colored nail polish, though it may take several coats to get a vibrant color.

Related links

Hang keys on an easy-to-identify keychain

One of the other tricks I recommend to organize keys for the visually impaired is to hang keys on an easy-to-identify keychain. This can include keychains with a unique color, texture, or other helpful information that can help the user to find it in a bag or on a table. I recommend choosing a color or texture that will pop against a lot of surfaces- there are few things more frustrating than having a set of keys or a keychain that seems to blend into a table or other container. I’m linking a personalized Braille keychain that I purchased on Etsy for less than $10 and that I really like, as it comes in several different colors and is fairly unique.

Related links

Store keys in an easy-to-find location with a visual landmark

In my dorm room, I would store my key underneath a picture or other easy to see item so that way I could easily hang them back up and know where to find them. It is much easier for me to look for a larger picture or color that stands out compared to the rest of the wall,  instead of trying to find a small key hook, so this solution worked very well for me. Using brightly colored storage containers is another great option as well.

Related links

Keep access cards on a lanyard or similar item

I store my dorm room access card on a lanyard, though I don’t necessarily wear my lanyard all of the time- sometimes I put it in my backpack or purse instead. However, storing my dorm room access card in my lanyard allows me to quickly grab my key on the way out, which is especially helpful when the fire alarm is going off.

For access cards related to my job, I would store them in the back pockets of my lanyard, or use other tools such as retractable ID badge holders to keep my cards organized. I do not do anything to make my cards easier to distinguish, as it is against policy to modify access cards in any way, including adding labels or poking holes.

Related links

If possible, add tactile dots to locks

One of my friends who has no usable vision was having trouble with unlocking doors because they had trouble figuring out where the lock was located, since it was placed in a strange way on the door. After receiving permission, we decided to add a tactile dot so that they would be able to feel for the dot and know where the lock was. Since then, I have used the same system to help make it easier for people to know where to swipe a card or type in a number if there were no other tactile labels available. Tactile dots can also be a helpful tool for helping users find light switches and other everyday items.

Related links

Final thoughts

Knowing how to adapt keys for the visually impaired is a very helpful skill to have, as it can tremendously help people with maintaining their independence and being able to navigate familiar places on their own. Every person with visual impairment has their own preferences for items such as color or texture, so it’s important to make sure that individual needs are considered before implementing a solution. I hope this post is helpful for others who are adapting keys for visual impairment!

Adapting Keys For Visual Impairment. How to adapt physical keys and access cards for people with low vision or blindness, and how to make keys and locks easier to locate, great for older adults and students