“How does a blind person get dressed?”
“How can I get dressed with a vision impairment?”
“Is there a way to get dressed with sight loss?”
Many people who are new to the world of visual impairment or who are just curious about how I manage to walk outside in the morning without two different shoes have asked me about getting dressed with sight loss. While the method of putting on clothing is the same as how a sighted person would get dressed, there is assistive technology that can help with labeling clothes and ensuring that colors and fabrics match. Here are some examples of assistive technology that can help a low vision or blind person get dressed.
Digital closet apps
One of my favorite ways to see my clothing up close is by using a digital closet app such as Stylebook. I have all of my clothing, shoes, jewelry, and accessories scanned into this app and tagged with information such as color, size, care instructions, and other helpful information that can help me put together outfits and take care of my clothes. I can also arrange outfits within the app and use screen magnification to see details on my clothes and jewelry that I would have otherwise not noticed.
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Is this shirt navy or black? Is this dress red or pink? Do these shoes have brown accents or black? These are all examples of questions that color readers can answer. Users can simply hold the reader above an article of clothing and have the color name read out loud. While traditional color reading devices can be expensive, free apps such as Microsoft Seeing AI have color readers built-in for colorblindness or for users with other color deficiencies.
After I ended up going to an event with two different colored shoes in middle school, I started adding flat colored stickers to the insole of my shoes so that I could easily tell which shoes went together. Some of my other friends also add textured stickers to their clothing tags to convey information such as color and care instructions, which can be very helpful for people who have limited technical skills.
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Virtual assistance apps
For people that prefer to talk to a live person, free virtual assistance apps such as Aira, BeSpecular, and Be My Eyes can help people with visual impairments with identifying clothing and putting together outfits. My friend likes to use these types of services when packing a suitcase so they can make sure all of their clothing goes together and they aren’t packing a bunch of monochromatic outfits.
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Another one of my friends uses specific organization methods to identify their clothes. They fold their long sleeve shirts in a different way from their short sleeve shirts and use similar contrasting folding methods for their pants and gym clothing as well. This is helpful because many of their clothing has similar fabrics, and they dislike having to unfold clothes in order to identify them. Personally, I prefer to organize my clothing by color and then by silhouette, putting sleeveless items in the front and long sleeve items in the back.
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Taking advantage of good lighting
Good lighting can help tremendously with clothing identification and getting dressed, especially for people with limited usable color vision. Ensure that closet areas and similar storage areas are well-lit and that colors can easily be seen when the item is held or stored.
Identifying items by texture
One of my friends with no usable sight prefers to identify items by texture, and purchases items with distinctive fabrics, textured logos, and similar characteristics. All of their clothing also gets washed in cold water in the washing machine, so there is no need for noting special care instructions.
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Summary of how people with low vision get dressed with assistive technology
- Digital closet apps to display clothing up close
- Color readers to identify colors of objects
- Add stickers to identify shoes
- Virtual assistance apps to get a sighted assistant
- Using specific organization methods
- Taking advantage of good lighting
- Identifying items by texture