Shining light on a complex problem

Otago Polytechnic occupational therapy lecturer Mary Butler (right) and third year occupational...
Otago Polytechnic occupational therapy lecturer Mary Butler (right) and third year occupational students Meg Sutton and Molly Ngatai examine a Lux IQ and light meter. PHOTO: JESSICA WILSON
An Otago Polytechnic occupational therapy lecturer and her students are running a project to help visually impaired Dunedin residents.

Mary Butler has received more than $15,000 from the Otago Science Into Action's Participatory Science Project to help prescribe suitable lighting for up to 50 visually impaired people.

Dr Butler said she and the students were talking to visually-impaired people about the lighting they had in their homes, what sort of lighting would be suitable for them, and how they could use that knowledge when shopping for new bulbs and lights.

A large number of people needed help but were not eligible for any assistance, she said.

"Ninety-three percent of people who have low vision have no services at all.''

Dr Butler and the students use a Lux IQ light meter to determine an individual's vision impairment and test the effects of different lighting options, such as brightness and colour.

They could then recommend suitable lighting, she said.

"It seems so simple to get your lighting correct - just move this and move that - but actually it's much more complex than that and it is hard for people to go out and do their shopping and find exactly what it is they need.''

First and third-year occupational students are assisting Dr Butler with the project.

"There are so few services for low vision that it's really important to get our occupational therapy students trained up in this area.''

Third year occupational therapy student Molly Ngatai said the project had been "really good''.

"I did not consider lighting a big issue until we started getting into it,'' she said.

Miss Ngatai said one of her clients, who was unable to read the newspaper without a magnifier, enjoyed using the Lux IQ.

"She was amazed she could make out the colours and shapes.''

Visually impaired Dunedin resident Jack Rutherford (85) was happy to be involved in the project.

"From my point of view, it's absolutely marvellous because one of the greatest dangers that you have in your house is inadequate lighting and when your vision is low to begin with, then you're adding to the risk of ... a fall.''

JESSICA.WILSON @thestar.co.nz

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