If you’re living with a visual impairment, the kitchen can be one of the most intimidating rooms in your house. Unfortunately, it’s one of the spaces that you must master in order to maintain true independence. The good news is that with some thought put into organization, safety, and comfort, you can be a kitchen maestro.
It all starts with organization
A disorganized kitchen is a nuisance to any chef, but for the visually impaired, it can be an absolute nightmare. Spending time over and over looking for the right ingredient, utensil, or cooking vessel can discourage visually-impaired cooks from even stepping foot into the kitchen.
Everything should have its own place in the kitchen and you should know which drawer, cabinet or shelf contains all essential items. The kitchen work triangle comprising stove, refrigerator, and sink should be clear. Also, you should never mix edible and non-edible items, such as spices, baking ingredients, and cleaning supplies.
Labeling is incredibly important, and for those with a visual impairment, labeling needs to suit your needs. This can often mean bright colors, tactile labels, large print, and even talking label technology.
“You don’t need to label items that are in distinctive packagings, such as a can of shortening, baking powder or milk. (If you have similar milk and juice containers in your fridge, put a rubber band on one to tell them apart.) Label different containers that are similar in shape, like tuna and cat food, soups, breakfast cereal boxes, and oils and vinegar. Use braille or large-print labels and rubber bands, tactile markers on rubber bands, a Pen Friend, or a Talking Tag iPhone app,” says Perkins School for the Blind.
If you’re having trouble keeping your kitchen (and the rest of your home) organized, consider hiring a professional. Just make sure you talk to your housekeeper and let them know that you have a specific place for your kitchen items.
Know how to play it safe
The first rule of your kitchen should be “sharp knives are safe knives.” Dull knives require the user to exert too much pressure, leading to slips and cuts. Keeping sharp knives can help you reduce injury. If you’re worried about using a knife, try a contained chopping device.
“Use light and dark cutting boards that contrast with the food you want to cut, making it easier to see the item. Use a non-skid shelf liner or damp cloth under the cutting board to keep it from sliding. When not in use, it is very important to place your knife at the top of the cutting board, with the handle toward your dominant hand,” says VisionAware.org.
Other quick tips include adding pasta, potatoes, and other food items to water before you set them to boil, This will help you avoid splashes and burns. Invest in some oven mitts that extend past the wrist and go up the arm. Put tactile indicators on your oven and range knobs, so you’ll know for sure when you’re cooking with high or low heat.
On the tech side, you can invest in talking timers, fill-level indicators, and more.
Make sure you have proper lighting
Like any room of the house, proper lighting in the kitchen is key for anyone living with a visual impairment. Don’t rely on your overhead lights to do all the work. Set up a gooseneck lamp near your workstation so you can direct light precisely where you need it. Install touch or motion-sensor lights inside cabinets and pantries. It’s amazing how far a little extra light can go when trying to discern between sugar and flour.