By Gil Johnson

With the exception of projects that call for precise measurements, most everyday household repair jobs won’t require any special tools adapted for persons with vision loss. You can find just about everything you need at your local hardware store or home center. If you find that you do need some special tools, start your search at the Helpful Products page.

Basic Tools

Screwdrivers, both straight slot and Phillips

If you’ve done any home repairs at all, you’re familiar with both types of screwdrivers:

  • Straight slot drivers have flattened tips that fit into screws and bolts with a dash-shaped slot that runs along the head.
  • Phillips drivers have four-pointed tips that fit into screws and bolts with a plus sign-shaped slot at the head.
  • The tips of screwdrivers are numbered from 1 to 4, depending on the width and thickness of the tip. For most home repair purposes, a 2 or a 3 tip is adequate.
  • Screwdriver handles come in differing shapes and sizes. Select the handle that best fits your hand.

Tip: Try using a screwdriver with four or more exchangeable tips. The advantage is that you’ll have one tool to keep track of, instead of several.

Hammers

  • There are many varieties of hammers on the market, from small lightweight “tack” hammers to heavy framing hammers.
  • Most have claws (straight or curved) opposite the hammer head, which are useful for pulling out nails and prying up boards.
  • For most home repair projects, a tack hammer and a standard 16-ounce hammer are most useful.

Tip: Steel handles are preferable to wooden ones. Wooden handles can break if stressed. Also wooden handles can dry out, which can cause the hammer head to fly off during use.

Pliers and Wrenches

  • A standard pair of pliers, or channellock pliers, and a set of adjustable crescent wrenches (that includes 8-, 10-, and 12-inch sizes) should be sufficient for your tool box.

Tip: Vice grip pliers, which lock onto the object you’re working on and thereby serve as a third hand, are a nice addition to your tool box.

Other Things to Keep Around

  • A wide assortment of screws, bolts, and nails, so you can be prepared for the unexpected.
  • Duct tape, which is good for holding objects in place so you can work with accuracy.
  • A can of spray-on lubricant (like WD-40) for loosening stuck hinges, dials, and gears.

Safety First

  • When working on anything electrical—even something as simple as replacing a light bulb—be sure that the electricity is turned off and the bulb has cooled before you begin.
  • Explore the area around the project before you begin. Check over the work area visually and with your hands, giving objects a light touch. You will learn much and are not likely to injure yourself.
  • Select the tools and parts you think you will need in advance. Place items in a small open carrying box secured in a convenient location. Always put tools back in the box once you’ve finished using to them to avoid accidents and misplaced items.
  • If you have any home repair questions, comments, or advice, feel free to post them on our Home Repairs Message Board.

Tips for Avoiding Accidents or Injuries

Many well-meaning people are afraid that persons with little or no vision have a higher incidence of injuries while working with tools and doing home repairs or making projects out of wood. Thousands of people with limited vision work safely and effectively with hand and power tools all the time.

Here are some tips, which can’t guarantee an accident-free experience, but can significantly minimize injuries. Many of these suggestions are followed regularly by safety-conscious hobbyists and professionals.

  • If you are tired, upset, or if you have been drinking or using drugs, postpone tackling a home repair project or working with wood, particularly if you are using power tools. All of these can impair judgment and reaction time, which can lead to minor or major accidents.
  • If you become fatigued while working on a project, make yourself stop and rest for a while or stop for the day.
  • Keep your work area clear to reduce the possibility of tripping or stumbling over something on the floor or bumping into something on the work surface.
  • Loose-fitting clothing can easily and very quickly get caught up in the tools you are using, particularly power woodworking tools. If you are wearing a long-sleeved shirt or jacket with loose sleeves, hold the sleeves back with rubber bands at your wrists or remove the clothing item altogether. Likewise, it is a good idea to remove jewelry, as this can also lead to accidents.
  • If you have long hair, secure it before starting a project. Wear closed-toe shoes to prevent injuries in case something falls on your foot.
  • If you are working in an environment where particles or dust are—or might be—flying around, wear protective goggles to prevent eye injuries. Likewise, if the project you are working on generates dust, wear a protective face mask to keep from inhaling dusty air or potentially toxic fumes.
  • Select the “right” tool for the job. It is very common for minor or even major injuries to occur if you are using the wrong tool for the job or if the tool is too dull to work effectively.

Following these suggestions won’t guarantee that an accident won’t happen, but they certainly will minimize the risk.

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