Heating Controls are too difficult for people with sight loss

Heating Controls are too difficult for people with sight loss

Many people with sight loss are unable to control their heating, or cut their fuel bills because heating dials and switches are too difficult to use, says new research released by the Research Institute for Consumer Affairs (Rica), and the sight loss charity Thomas Pocklington Trust.

In a new guide, ‘Choosing Central Heating Controls and Saving Energy’, researchers report a catalogue of design problems that make heating controls difficult to operate, and offer practical advice on choosing and using heating controls to stay warm and save energy.

“It’s vital that everyone should be able to control their heating but current designs simply rule this out for some customers. We need new heating controls to be made accessible to all,” said Lynn Watson, Head of Housing Research, Thomas Pocklington Trust.

The new guide de-mystifies heating controls. It explains how they work, gives product reviews and lists what to look for particularly if you have sight loss or failing vision. It also reveals an urgent need for better design of heating controls.

“There’s little point in government urging people to save energy if the most basic controls for heating are simply not workable for vast numbers of people,” said Chris Lofthouse, Outreach Manager, Rica.

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Controls which can be operated by apps or through a website have great potential, as testers felt these could be more accessible.

However, testing revealed that they didn’t work well with access software (screen readers/magnifiers) designed for people with sight loss.

Based on the most common problems, the guide provides a check list of key points for people buying new controls to consider.  These include clocks and switches that are difficult to see and screens and dials that were too small.

For those who don’t want to buy new controls the Guide shows how to improve old ones by adding tactile markers. It includes tips on cutting energy bills, keeping homes warm, and how to find and pay for energy-saving home improvements.

“The new guide aims to help people with sight loss or failing vision to take control of their heating – to save energy, cut costs and choose the most comfortable temperature,” says Lynn Watson.

The Guide is also a wake-up call to manufacturers – to design and produce heating controls that are clearer and easier to use. This could be a benefit to all, but is vital to those with impaired vision.

To obtain a printed copy of the guide please send a large (A4) self addressed envelope with £1.10 in stamps to: Rica, Unit G03, The Wenlock, 50-52 Wharf Road, London N1 7EU.