Blind World


Cooking with just the right touch.





July 13, 2005.
NJ.com, New Jersey.




Cooking can seem moderately simple for people with sight, but imagine not being able to see while trying to work in your own kitchen.


Measuring ingredients, telling when meat is done, or even just telling the difference between two cans of food can present challenges for those who are visually impaired.


In order to cook for survival -- and to cook safely -- a visually impaired person must be taught how to use his or her other senses.


The Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (ABVI), of Lehigh and Carbon Counties, is one such organization that assists families and individuals who would otherwise have struggles in their daily lives to reach their greatest potential.


The organizations offers programs geared to help the visually impaired adjust to normal daily routine by learning and relearning basic skills. Cooking is one of those vital skills necessary to live independently.


Dianne Michels, a certified vision rehabilitation therapist, works with individuals who are blind or visually impaired so they can gain independence.


"We take whatever they want to learn and show them how they can do it," Michels says.


To learn how to cook and function in the home kitchen, Michels says she will visit the homes of those affected and view their difficulties. She then will review with the individual or the family on how to overcome specific problems.


Carol Miller is one such person whose sight began to deteriorate about three years ago. Through Michels' assistance, she says she has relearned how to make and enjoy her favorite foods again.


"(Dianne) Michels taught me how to make chili, and potato soup," Miller says. "She's a patient person who brings a lot of fun to her classes."


This fall, Michels will be teaching classes on crock-pot cooking, meals for one, and meals in 30 minutes or less.


"With the right attitude, you can do anything," Michels believes.


The biggest challenge she faces, she says, is dealing with someone who starts off with a bad attitude and does not believe he or she can perform the task.


"Impaired vision presents a very big loss of independence," Michels explains. "Some people have a hard time believing they can really do these things again without vision."


Miller says she is glad she turned to the association for help. She says she realized she had to relearn all over again how to do tasks she once took for granted.


She had to relearn kitchen basics for survival, such as peeling fruits and vegetables and cutting with something as simple as a butter knife.


"I have to cook five days a week," she says, and now has learned to master tasks, thanks to Michels' assistance.


Miller says her daughter helps her in a weekly meal planning menu so she can cook for herself each night.


"She makes sure I am using good food that has not expired," Miller adds.


One thing Michels stresses in her teaching is how to tell when meat is done. One way is by using a wooden spoon to feel if the meat is finished. She says when ground meat is first put in a pan, it is like clay. As it begins to cook, it gets into larger clumps. By the time it is done, it will have become granular.


She also incorporates the use of time and sound in teaching someone who is visually impaired, and also the use of color.


Using brightly colored cutting boards, Michels says, will aid in the contrast with the color of food. She also suggests not using "busy," or patterned table coverings but rather solid colors which will help in locating items on a table.


"When dealing with light-colored foods or ingredients, dark or black plates and measuring cups should be used," Michels says. "When dealing with dark-colored foods and ingredients, things must be reversed by using light-colored plates and measuring tools."


In determining the difference among canned foods and other food products, Michels assists in creating labels. Magnetic labels can adhere to metal cans. Or labels can attach to elastic wrapped around certain foods.


Michels uses large-sized print in lettering for labels as well as for recipes for easy identification.


There are many assistive devices for meal preparation for the visually impaired to use in the kitchen, Michels says. These include the talking timer, the thermo-chef talking utensil with thermometer, and the two-sided spatula.


The talking timer is helpful for those who rely on timing to ensure doneness. Along with timers that have large numbers, these products are helpful to those who have completely lost their sight.


The thermo-chef talking utensil with thermometer will speak the temperature of meat as it is being cooked.


The two-sided spatula is a useful tool for turning, or flipping foods such as hamburgers and grilled cheese sandwiches. It is actually two spatulas opposed to each other on a tong-like handle.


When is a glass half empty, and when is it half full? There is a device available that can let a visually impaired person know just that. The gadget, attached to the side of a glass or cup, will make a loud, beeping noise when water hits it.


And there are brightly-colored knives that will not cause injury when foods must be cut.


"Loss of vision does not mean that the visually impaired have to stop functioning," Michels stresses. "People can get their lives back to normal and maintain an independent, active life."


For more information on classes, contact the Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired at 610-433-6018.




End of article.



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