What’s Cookin’?: Kitchen Aids for the Visually Impaired

Some people find cooking intimidating. It requires culinary skills and knowledge of safe practices, topped with a bit of artistry. But we all have to eat to live. And since you have to eat every day, several times a day, it doesn’t hurt to improve your cooking ability or expand your repertoire of choices.

When you are visually impaired, you may have to find ways to do things in the kitchen that are different from the traditional method. While you do need to consider your safety a bit more, it’s not impossible to be a vibrant cook. You can find cooking information and inspiration online, buy gadgets that make life easier or make use of appliances that are compatible with the philosophy of universal design.

Cooking Without Looking: Information and Inspiration

Take a trip to www.cookingwithoutlooking.net. There you’ll find recipes, replays of shows, and excellent blog reviews of kitchen appliances. Cooking Without Looking is a show that used to be on PBS and now lives on through the internet.

According to the “about” page on their website, the show’s format is this, “Three hosts who are either Blind, Low Vision or Visually Impaired provide cooking tips, vision information, etc. along side our “guest chefs”…regular everyday people who are also blind, low vision or visually impaired as they prepare their special recipe, and provide cooking/vision-related tips.”

The website incorporates links to the show as well as some practical information. They have recipes that are low-vision preparation friendly, as well as a few reviews that discuss the positives and negatives of using different types of kitchen gadgets and appliances. They also include their phone number so you can contact them with any questions about the show.

Reading Labels and Directions

Trying to read the small print on consumer packages can be difficult, or even impossible. Fortunately, Directions for Me by Horizons for the Blind has been working to solve that problem. Directions For Me provides labeling information in a simplified format that is accessible online.

Their website says, “Directions For Me was designed to be completely accessible, with text-to-speech screen readers, magnifiers and braille displays as well as web-enabled cell phones. This information is presented in a uniform, easy-to-use format and eliminates features that hinder accessibility.”

One neat feature found on the website is the ability to connect it to a barcode scanner. This allows you to bypass searching for items in their “categories” section. With the scanner feature, you can plug in a scanner to your USB port and simply scan the barcode on the item to pull up its information.

Kitchen Gadgets

Kitchen gadgets usually focus on improving the safety or ease of cooking. There are plenty of items that were made for the general public, but that also improve kitchen accessibility for the visually impaired.

Sharp items, like knives, can be especially problematic. It’s important to keep your fingers and hands safe when slicing, so blades that come with guides are helpful. For example, the  Deli Pro Stainless Steel Knife comes with a slicing guide that is easily adjusted by turning a knob. The guide also stands out from the side of the knife and helps support the food as you’re cutting, which keeps your fingers away from the blade.

The Instant Pot, which is a very popular all-in-one pressure cooker and crockpot, now makes a model called Instant Pot Smart, which has a Bluetooth feature that allows you to program custom made recipes scripts which you can start wirelessly from an app. Instead of having to manually adjust the cooking function for each step of the recipe, the pot will do it automatically. This function also has the benefit of helping visually impaired users because they can set the pot using the app, which will work in conjunction with their phone’s Voice Over system.

Appliances

One easy hack to modify your kitchen appliances is to buy or make braille stickers to place on microwave or oven buttons. Some people even use stickers to mark the food or containers in their pantry.

Touch-to-see stickers are reasonably priced. And the braille letters and numbers are easy to use because they are pre-printed. All you do is peel and stick. But if you need more customization, or plan on labeling many things throughout your kitchen or home, you may want to invest in an Electronic Braille Label Maker. The label maker allows you to make an unlimited amount of customized stick-on labels. All you have to do is stay stocked up on the vinyl tape.

Besides improving the labeling in your kitchen, you can also improve the general safety of your appliances. Induction stovetops are cooktops that do not heat up. They work by using electromagnetic technology to heat up the pot or pan. This means there is no flame or scalding-hot surface. And not only does it reduce injury, an induction stovetop also heats up more quickly than a standard stovetop, and it conserves energy. It’s a win-win situation.

Many of these kitchen aids not only help someone who is visually impaired to navigate the kitchen, they have elements of universal design that make preparing food safer and easier for all users. Whether you find inspiration online, buy extra gadgets, or modify the appliances in your home, you’ll find that cooking will become a more enjoyable experience for everyone.

Photo by Naomi Hébert on Unsplash

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