Using contrast

Contrast is simply about using colour and shade to help an object stand out against its background. Along with good lighting, it’s key to using your functional vision effectively. Using good colour contrast when you’re carrying out everyday tasks will help to reduce risk, build your confidence and maintain your personal safety.

We’ve got some suggestions for how you can use contrast to help you identify items, but if you feel you need some specific advice, it would be worth contacting a Rehabilitation Worker/Rehabilitation Officer for Vision Impairment or Orientation and Mobility Specialist. 

You can buy most of the equipment we suggest from homeware and DIY stores, and the more specialist items, such as Dycem non-slip matting, from RNIB online or possibly from your local support agency (formally known as society for the blind).


On this page

Around the kitchen

Use a dark tray, mat or chopping board when using light coloured crockery as it will add contrast. For example, as in image 1 above, if you’re using a white bowl, put it on a tray covered with blue Dycem non-slip matting to highlight the contrast. 

Equally, if you’re using a dark plate, it will contrast better with a light background, so you can put it on a yellow mat, as in image 2 above. 

You may have difficulty seeing shelves in the oven, especially if the oven has an internal light. You can buy oven shelf guards, which can help you to see the shelf, and that may also help protect your hands and arms when you’re reaching into a hot oven.

In the bathroom 

  • Bathroom light switch cords —use a contrasting end pull or tie a contrasting ribbon or cord to the end.
  • Use dark accessories to stand out against a light suite, for example, a black soap dispenser on a white basin.

Around the rest of the home

  • Door frames and edges — paint them a contrasting colour; door handles too.
  • Cupboard doors — add a strip of contrast to the edge to help them stand out and prevent bumps if doors are left open.
  • Light switches — they’ll stand out if they’re a contrasting colour to the wall, whether that’s by painting the wall or highlighting the switch using tape of a contrasting colour.
  • Banister and handrails — they’ll stand out more if they’re a  contrasting colour to the wall. If you don’t want to repaint the walls, you could stick wide contrasting self-adhesive tape to the wall behind the handrail.
  • Glass doors — stick on a patterned covering or transfer. It will help prevent you accidentally walking into them but may also help reduce the effects of glare from the sun coming into the room. 
Because bright colours help me, I’ve painted the walls in my house so they contrast well with the brown doors and I also use vivid colours for my crockery.
Diane, guide dog owner with cataracts in both eyes, as well as nystagmus, squint, aniridia and a detached retina

When writing

  • Use a notebook with thick lines to guide your writing. Using a black thick felt tip pen will make your notes stand out, too.
  • If you’re signing an important document, you can buy a signature guide in a contrasting colour to help guide your writing on the page. 

Outside

To help you find steps or slopes outside your home more easily, especially if the lighting is poor, put a contrasting edge on both the vertical and horizontal part of each step, or at the start and end of a slope.