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Home Safety Tips For Persons Who Are Blind Or Partially Sighted

Lighting is the most effective tool in deterring crime. Not only does it allow you to see, but it also tells would-be intruders that you are home and everything is "business as usual". Even if you are totally blind, it is advisable to intermittently turn lights on and off, not to mention opening and closing blinds and curtains mornings and evenings.

If you live alone, consider having just your first initial and surname listed in the telephone book. Have a male record the greeting on your answering machine or try using "we" instead of "I" in the message.

Keep a list of emergency numbers in a format you can access near the phone and place a phone by the bed in case of overnight emergencies.

Keep doors and windows locked. Before answering the door, yell out as if to someone in the house to indicate that you are not alone. Call out through the door to ask who is there and do not open the door if there is no reply.

If the caller indicates that they are a service, law enforcement or delivery person, ask for identification; if you cannot read it, ask for the telephone number of the employer and call to verify their employment and the reason for the visit.

You may wish to have a security system. Ask family and friends if they can recommend one that has accessibility features like raised keypads.

You may prefer to get a dog that barks loudly, post a "beware of dog" sign or place a large bowl of water in full view near the front door with a fear-inspiring name on it like "Brutus" or "Killer" (even if you don't own a dog!).

But you yourself may be your best security system.

By training yourself to be increasingly aware of your other senses, you may be able to detect unusual footsteps, smell unfamiliar perfume or cigarette smoke, or notice that a door is not the way you know you left it. Being especially sensitive to your surroundings can be particularly helpful when entering or leaving your home.

Set verbal boundaries with callers. If someone asks you strange or rather personal questions, like how much you can see, if you're married/live alone or details about your finances, consider the situation, who is asking and your surroundings.

You do not have to answer questions you are uncomfortable with if you feel the situation is inappropriate. In a strong and assertive voice, you can refuse to answer.

Pay attention to your physiological reaction and heed your instincts. Your increased heartbeat, shortness of breath or sweaty palms may be tipping you off to danger. If your gut tells you that something or someone is not quite right, respond accordingly. Don't worry about offending anyone or looking foolish; it's better to be safe than sorry.

The tips outlined here are by no means exhaustive. Use and modify these and other measures to fit your individual needs. Having a vision impairment doesn't mean that you are automatically more vulnerable to home-related crime. By using common sense, general safety tips and some alternative blindness skills, you can feel as safe and secure in your home as your sighted neighbours.

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