When you’re visually impaired cooking can be more of a challenge, but is by no means impossible.
With a little time and effort you can cook any dish you like, and there is a wide range of specialist equipment and technology available which is designed to make it easier. Here are my top ten tips for helping you to cook as independently as possible.
1. Have an organised and tidy kitchen. Getting into the habit of putting ingredients back in the same place after using them will make it a lot easier to find them quickly. For example, you could put certain types of food on a particular shelf in the cupboard or pantry, such as sugar on the right and nuts on the left.
I’ve also started my own blog – Harriet’s Blind Kitchen – where I share healthy recipes and tips etc… Check it out at the link below: https://harrietsblindkitchen.home.blog/
2. Label ingredients, tins and packets that you use regularly. There are a number of labelling options available, including writing braille labels or using a piece of equipment called a Penfriend. This is an audio labelling device that works by the visually impaired person recording a label using their own voice. It is also possible to record additional material using the penfriend too, such as use-by-date and cooking instructions. Once recorded, touch the pen lightly against the packet or tin and it will announce what it contains.
The penfriend is available to purchase from NAB. There are also a variety of apps on iPhones and iPads that can be used for labelling, including Seeing Ai and Taptap See. These apps work by taking a photo of the product and reading it aloud using the Voiceover screenreader.
3. Use your senses of hearing, touch and taste to determine when a dish is cooked. For example, if you’ve cooked a cake it is possible to tell when it is done if the sponge springs back easily when you press your fingers lightly on top of it.
4. Time food when cooking. There are a variety of tactile timers available from NAB or if you have a smart speaker such as an Amazon Echo you can use this.
5. When measuring ingredients, there are a wide range of options. I prefer to use talking scales for weighing out dry ingredients. These are available to purchase from NAB and work by avoice clearly announcing the amount as you put it in the bowl. It is also possible to change the measurements from grams to ounces if you wish. I also sometimes use eggcups instead of teaspoons to measure some foods because I find it easier.
6. For measuring and pouring liquids, it is best to use tactile jugs and measuring cups. These have raised lines on them which act as a guide to help you judge how far to pour and are available to buy from NAB. A piece of equipment that I use regularly to assist with pouring is a liquid level indicator. This is a small gadget that sits on the edge of the cup and emits a series of beeps and vibrates when the cup is almost full. It can be used when pouring hot or cold liquids and is available to buy from NAB. The liquid level indicator is great to use if you’re not very confident with pouring because you don’t have to worry about overfilling the cup.
7. When chopping and preparing vegetables, use a good sharp knife and chopping board. I personally prefer using small knives. It is best to use a short-bladed, unserrated kitchen knife with an ergonomic handle. It’s also a good idea to have a strong, sturdy chopping board. If possible, try and get one with a lip on to prevent food falling off. Chopping boards and knives are available to buy from Lakeland and most kitchenware shops. It might also be useful to have a system when preparing vegetables by lining them up in a specific order on the chopping board. For instance, you could have unchopped on the left and finished ones on the right.
8. Always avoid frying foods whenever you can. Frying can be dangerous when you’re visually impaired, and I’ve found plenty of alternative solutions that work for me. One option that I find works really well is using a George Foreman grill. This is a very simple and safe grill to use which also cooks the food on both sides. Many different foods can be cooked in it, including sausages, bacon and even toasted sandwiches. The grill also comes with a drip tray which is placed underneath to catch any fat. Different foods obviously need different cooking times so I time sausages or chicken breast but can usually tell if bacon is ready by the sizzling noise it makes!
9. Use raised markers to mark dials and knobs on ovens. You could use a series of dots called bump-ons to do this, which are available from NAB. You could also use these to mark the minutes on the microwave too.
10. It is important to use a good pair of oven gloves. I have a fantastic pair of rubber ones which are great for removing hot dishes from the microwave and also allow for a strong grip. It is best to use thick rather than thin ones as they protect the hands better. There are a wide range of oven gloves available to buy from Lakeland.
I hope you have found these tips useful. If you have any of your own to share, I’d love to hear them!