Why colour contrasting is more important than you think.

When we talk about making a home accessible, we think about step free access, grab rails, level entry showers. Whilst it’s obviously a good start, they’re not the only features you need to make your home accessible.

Lots of disabilities are not visible, some we are born with while others appear as we age.

Visual impairment is one of these disabilities: it effects people in many forms – glaucoma, macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, cataracts, colour blindness and short and long vision… It can affect anybody at any age.
So, what can you do to improve accessibility in your home for all of these people and yourself?
Think about colour contrasting.

Colours that are opposite each other on the colour wheel are considered to be complementary colours. The high contrast of complementary colours creates a vibrant look especially when used at full saturation. In housing it’s useful to highlight some features and allow people to easily find what they need.

People with visual impairments can have trouble distinguishing between different surfaces, which can impede movement around the home. You can incorporate strong colour contrasting between surfaces to make doors easier to find and help people moving through the home day or night and reducing the risk of falling or injuring themselves.

Here are some good examples provided by our partner Resene:


In the kitchen it’s even more important to think about colour contrasting. People with visual impairments can burn or cut themselves more easily if the surfaces are all in the same colour. Making the bench colour different from the sink/hotplates for example.

Here are more ideas from our partner Resene:


Light switches and other controls that have colour contrast against their surroundings are easier to find in a darkened room. Most people decide to put light switches in the same colour as the wall because they think them “ugly” and want to hide them. But we can be making life difficult for our future selves.

Here is an example of beautiful use of colour contrasting:

Power points


In the bathroom it is common for a white toilet to be located next to a white vanity in front of a white wall – all installed on a white floor! For someone with a visual impairment this can be extremely disorientating. Consider using colours along with different textures to highlight these facilities.
Here are other examples of great use of colour contrasting by Higham Architecture and Resene:


Colour contrasting is a really easy and inexpensive consideration to improve accessibility in your house. You just need to think about it when you build your house and choose strong colour contrasting between surfaces where possible.

If you need further information you can learn more on our website: www.lifemark.co.nz or you can directly search for one of our partners: www.lifemark.co.nz/partners-and-products