How the visually impaired can stop playing the guessing game in the kitchen

How many times have you played the guessing game in your kitchen? Trying to figure out what’s in that can or box on your pantry shelf? Sniffing a spice and hoping you are selecting the right one for the recipe? Digging in the freezer to grab that frozen dinner but can’t determine the cooking time because the instructions are in small print? People with visual impairments play this guessing game on a regular basis. Many food items we use daily are not totally accessible yet but can be with some modifications. Learning how to organize, store, mark and label food items in the kitchen will not only help identify food items but increase self-confidence and independence when trying to do activities for visually impaired cooks. 

Organize the kitchen

The first step is to get organized. Do an inventory of your kitchen. Look at how things are stored and placed. Gather similar food items and put them together. Canned goods can be organized and stored in one location in the pantry. Stack boxes of cereal or crackers side by side on a shelf. In the refrigerator, keep condiments together in the door, while separating fruits and veggies in the crisper. In the freezer, collect all bags of frozen veggies and put to one side, while frozen dinners to the other. Place spices and seasonings in a caddy for quick and easy reach. 

Marking and labeling food items

Now that the kitchen is organized and you know where things are, it’s time to mark and label your food. There are numerous ways to accomplish this task from simple and rudimentary to detailed and complex. You can use everyday household items like index cards, rubber bands, colored plastic tape, markers and craft paint. Other items you might have to purchase like Dymo adhesive tape, a braille label gun, puff paint pen, or adaptive technology, like a PenFriend, or apps for a smartphone.

Once you figure out the things you want to use during your activities for visually impaired cooks, the next step is the method of marking and labeling a specific food item. A can of corn can be differentiated from a can of peas by wrapping a rubber band around it. But if there are several cans of different kinds of food then take a marker and index card, writing the food item on it and using a rubber band to secure it around the cans. If you are a braille user, then create braille labels instead, placing them on the index card. Store the marker, rubber bands and index cards in a Ziploc bag for later use and to keep labels as food items are eaten.

If you want to mark and label your food items with more details such as ingredients or cooking directions, then using adaptive technology works best. Rubber bands, Dymo tape and index cards don’t work as well in the freezer but using a PenFriend will get the job done. This hand-held device is a voice activated labeling system where you can record your own voice to produce labels.  For quick and handy sighted assistance there are apps for your smartphone like Be My Eyes and AIRA. These apps access your camera and microphone where a sighted assistant can help you identify items in your kitchen.

The guessing game is now over when it comes to activities for visually impaired chefs. The foods in your kitchen are organized, stored, marked and labeled. You can approach your kitchen with self-confidence and independence. The only thing left to do now is start cooking and enjoying all that you have accomplished. 

If you would like to learn more about adaptive technology, Outlook Enrichment is here to help. Take a look at our adaptive tech programs. We are looking forward to helping you grow your independence, contact us to learn more!