Lighting design for diversity: Learning from low-vision rehabilitation

Turid Borgestrand Øien*, Anne Kathrine Frandsen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to book/anthology/report/conference proceedingArticle in proceedingResearchpeer-review

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Science understands and handles a phenomenon from different perspectives. Light is handled as daylight, artificial light, task light, and general light, as physics, electrical technology, or safety aids. However, as part of people’s everyday lives, the different characteristics of the phenomena fluxes and blend, as people’s needs and preferences to lighting differ across a day, in different situations, and not least across a lifetime. Current societal agendas as Leave No One Behind or the sustainable development goals, stress the need for a more holistic approach in design: For the built environment to support wellbeing, comfort, and quality of life, for all.

Disabilities have traditionally been defined in relation to abilities and the normal-bodied, with special aids for special needs, and special spaces for the ‘other’. Niches for the other is seen in the field of lighting as special solutions for visually impaired, and correspondingly, lighting is a niche in low-vision services, that has been guided by diagnostics and recommendations of specific lux levels. Thus, more holistic and interdisciplinary initiatives within low-vision rehabilitation that have explored the rehabilitative role of lighting as support of the visually impaired individual in their everyday life, show that individualizing and optimizing the individual’s domestic lighting can improve their quality of life. Can the findings from low-vision rehabilitation be translated into the field of lighting design, informing a qualitative approach, and work as an incubator for more diverse user perspectives?

The interactions of the low-vision consultants, visually impaired participants, and their domestic lighting, have been studied in a case study of the role of lighting in low-vision rehabilitation. Participatory observations of 15 consultations and interviews with 17 visually impaired participants form the basis for an analysis of the dynamic human environment interaction at stake, using the theoretical frameworks of affordance and usability. The analysis contributes to a more situated and dynamic understanding of light: The experience of light is context dependent, and lighting needs and preferences are diverging regardless of diagnosis but rather constituted by the dynamic interactions. Consequently, this calls for user involvement and a more diverse user perspective in design processes, which could support more useful designs.

This study implies a promising potential within the intersection of research paradigms and practice: Between quality of life, lighting quality, architectural quality, and user perspectives closer to people’s complex and changing needs and preferences.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationIOP Conference Series: Earth and Environmental Science : The 8th International Light Symposium: Re-thinking Lighting Design in a Sustainable Future (Light Symposium 2022) 21/09/2022 - 23/09/2022 Copenhagen
PublisherIOP Publishing
Publication dateNov 2022
Article number012054
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2022
EventThe 8th International Light Symposium: Re-thinking Lighting Design in a Sustainable Future - Copenhagen, Denmark
Duration: 21 Sep 202223 Sep 2022
Conference number: 8


ConferenceThe 8th International Light Symposium
SeriesIOP Conference Series: Earth and Environmental Science
Volume1099 (print)
SeriesIOP Conference Series: Earth and Environmental Science
Volume1099 (online)


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