Top tips for designing with epilepsy in mind
Interior Designer, Emma Black considers the importance of designing spaces to help make life a bit easier for people with medical conditions and has put together her top tips for designing specifically with epilepsy in mind in her latest blog.
As interior designers, we always aim to make our designs as inclusive and accessible as possible.
Still, it is only when you or someone you know experiences something that restricts or obstructs their daily life that you start to understand how and what can affect someone living with a medical condition.
Having somebody close to me suffer from epilepsy has given me the ability to design with the condition in mind. No one-size-fits-all solution exists for creating designs for people with epilepsy. Trigger points for seizures differ for every individual, and there is more to epilepsy than just seizures. People with epilepsy experience electrical activity in the brain, which can present itself as visual auras, migraines and other symptoms.
If you are designing a private home with one individual in mind, achieving a safer environment for that person is more manageable. With so many triggers and the increased risk of a sudden fall, how can we achieve a functional, safe and still aesthetically pleasing design for people with epilepsy as a whole?
Here are my top tips.
- Frequent Rest Spaces – Some people with epilepsy can feel a seizure starting or recognise pre-seizure symptoms. For these people having a safe place to sit or lay within a close distance can reduce the risk of them falling during a seizure and make the environment a little more comfortable.
- Discreet Sources of Support – Grab rails can be a source of support when falling; however, they can also be a risk to someone who is uncontrollably falling. A recessed channel in a wall may be a better approach to providing a place to reach for whilst also being tucked out of the way to reduce the risk of injury. Creating sensitive support areas through a design may help the user feel more independent if they do not see hospital-grade grab rails on every wall.
- Indirect Sources of Light – Bright glaring lights and flashing lights can trigger seizures and bother those with epilepsy due to increased sensitivity to light. Creating a well-lit space using indirect lighting can be achieved easily by using light fittings that aim onto the ceiling and upper walls, which act as reflectors to spread the light around the space evenly. We can reduce glare by specifying diffusers and or antiglare lights. Dimmable lights can also be very beneficial.
- Temperature controls – Control over a space’s temperature is essential; people with uncontrolled seizures experience increased seizure activity during hot weather. Ensuring the environment is a comfortable temperature helps keep the body stabilised.
- Doors – Doors in all rooms and toilet cubicles that can swing both ways are vital if somebody has a seizure and falls behind a door; opening the door is the other way to gain access to this imperative to ensure their safety.
- Rest and Recovery Room – Following a seizure or epileptic activity, the individual needs rest and recovery. A private space to recover from an episode with a chair and bed is necessary. It is essential that this space is quiet, so the acoustics are significant, with dimmable lighting to allow the room to be as dark as possible. Think about M&E; an emergency pull cord would be helpful, as well as CCTV to keep an eye on the recovering person.
Designing for inclusivity needs to be thought about through the whole design process from brief to completion. We can make somebody’s day a little easier by creating with these tips in mind.
For information on epilepsy, visit these websites https://epilepsysociety.org.uk