By Jackie Waters – My husband’s sister, who has been visually impaired since childhood, recently came to live with us. While we were excited to welcome her, we knew our old farmhouse presented a lot of potential obstacles and hazards for her, including our homestead kitchen. So, my husband got to work tackling home repair projects, and I got to work organizing and rearranging to make our home more accessible for her and her guide dog.
The kitchen is one of the most important rooms in the home for all people, especially those of us who are homesteading today. Not only is it commonly used as a gathering place, but it’s where essential domestic activity — preparing meals — takes place. If you aren’t comfortable in your kitchen, it’s hard to be comfortable anywhere in the home.
This is especially true for those with vision loss. The kitchen represents independence, first and foremost. The ability to feed oneself is the ultimate sign of being self-sufficient — something that can be hard for those suffering from visual impairment. The kitchen can also be dangerous, as it’s full of hazardous implements — from blades to multiple heat sources such as a wood-burning cook stove.
Of course, as with many rooms of the house, a little modification in the kitchen can go a long way. Here are a few tips on preparing a homestead kitchen for use by someone with vision loss:
A well-organized homestead kitchen is a safe kitchen. As a person with a visual impairment, you don’t want to be rummaging through cabinets and drawers looking for the proper kitchen gadget or utensil. It’s important to know exactly where everything is at all times. You should have dedicated spaces for knives, spices, oven mitts, etc. “Junk” drawers full of random kitchen supplies are not a friend to anyone suffering from vision loss.
Use Color-Contrasted Labels
A good way to orient yourself in the kitchen is with proper labeling. Color contrast is a great way to organize your kitchen. You can mark certain cabinets and drawers with bright tape. If your vision loss is severe, the use of tactile labels can work wonders. Purchase equipment like cutting boards and bowls that provide contrast with the food you’re cooking. A black cutting board for garlic and onions, or a white mixing bowl for chocolate brownie batter, for instance.
Strengthen Your Other Senses
It’s important to develop your other senses in the kitchen. Smell, taste and even sound can tell you plenty about a particular food item or ingredient.
“Use all your senses,” says vision loss advocacy group Lighthouse Guild. “Touch and hearing can help you identify ingredients and operate appliances. Some stove dials click as you turn the knob to various temperature settings. You can smell toast getting brown to know it’s done or burning. Meat is brown when it’s rough to the touch.”
Research adaptive kitchen supplies. Of course, you don’t have to rely on just your senses to make things easier in the kitchen. There are plenty of products available that can provide much-needed support. It’s worth the money to invest in non-slip cutting boards and large-grip utensils. Voice-activated timers can be a real life-saver for the culinarian with vision loss. The EZ Fill liquid indicator can prevent you from overfilling wet ingredients when cooking, or even your morning cup of coffee.
Don’t Overcrowd Workspaces
Space in the kitchen should be valued over all else. Never overcrowd your countertops with appliances and décor. Your workspace should be as uncluttered as possible. Instead of populating your kitchen with tons of appliances and tools, opt for fewer machines and gadgets and more space. Don’t try to do too much. When it comes to cooking with a visual impairment, simplicity is paramount.
With a little organization and preparation, the homestead kitchen can be perfectly accessible for those with vision loss. Don’t be afraid to consult a kitchen tools list specifically designed for this; there’s no need to go without the proper tools.