Some steps to making cooking accessible for visually impaired people
Cooking is a life skill, something that everyone should know at least the bare minimum of to be independent. It is also a great stress buster for people who love to cook.
Many people think that visually impaired people cannot cook, but that is not true. All that is needed is a few changes in the way items are arranged are stored in the kitchen. Also, the right products can help ensure you have a fun and safe experience with a visual impairment.
Shirin Kheriwala, who hold cooking classes for visually impaired people in Mumbai, learned cooking from her mother. “My mother did not want me to grow up dependent because I was blind and she taught me when I was quite young”. Kheriwala says she wants blind youth, boys and girls, to feel that same sense of confidence in the kitchen.
The trick, says Kheriwala, lies the way you arrange the daily use items in the kitchen. Like, she stores all the dals together in wide-mouthed plastic or steel jars. This helps her remove them easily and recognize the textures before using them.
For a visually impaired person, texture and smell is important. I keep my masalas in a series above my gas. So, first is salt, then haldi, dhania, etc. I always make sure I smell the masala I need before putting it in the dish. Also, I keep everything in plastic or steel containers for safety. – Shirin Kheriwala
Kheriwala advises against the use of the traditional round masala dabbas found in most Indian kitchens as it can get confusing.
Safety is a critical aspect and while some minor burns and cuts are inevitable for everyone, visually impaired or otherwise, it is important to protect yourself as much as possible. Kheriwala stores sharp objects like knives and scissors in a small plastic glass in a particular corner of the kitchen counter. “Always keep the gas lighter and knives in a place where you are not likely to keep brushing against it and are likely to get hurt”.
However, remember there is no one size fits all approach to making your kitchen accessible if you are visually impaired. Like Gangamma Linga, a working woman based in Bengaluru prefers to keep her knives in a big utensil and her dals in containers of different sizes.
“The approach that works for me is that whenever I need to use something, I pick it up with my left hand, make sure it’s the right thing and then put it in the utensil with my right hand”, says Gangamma.
Ensure your utensil is in the right position on the gas before you turn it on, advises Suma Umba, also a bank employee from Bengaluru. “I prefer to use a big vessel while cooking as this helps ensure nothing boils over”, says Umba,
To ensure the ingredients are put inside the vessel in the right way, Kheriwala uses a spoon.
“I always take a spoon and put it in the centre of the vessel in a standing position. Then I put the masalas and dal around that spoon. Of course you have to be careful not to touch the vessel and always use a spoon with a wooden handle. Steel spoons can burn your hand and plastic will melt”, warns Kheriwala.
All this may sound like a lot of instructions but following them regularly will make it a habit and easy. Do you have some tips that make it easy for a visually impaired person to cook? Share them with us and we will be happy to let our readers know. Write in at firstname.lastname@example.org.