Can’t see but can cook and dream!

I’m Penny Melville-Brown and have been trying to push the disability boulder up the mountain of public attitudes for years.  So I’m delighted that Disability Talk has invited me to provide this guest blog.

Penny chopping while filming for bakingblind.comIt all started over 20 years ago when I was still serving in the Royal Navy and my eye sight started to go.  They were very good: after being off-sick for a year and with just sight in one eye, I went back to work, got a promotion and carried on even while the other eye was failing. The Navy helped me with flexible hours, getting to work and magnification on my computer even though, like other parts of the military, they weren’t covered by the equality legislation.    When I was finally medically discharged, those years with all sorts of health difficulties gave me the confidence that being blind didn’t stop me working.

But trying to persuade future employers seemed a slim chance until I was lucky enough to link up with others equally passionate about making work a real prospect for disabled people.  So I launched Disability Dynamics: working on employment programmes, equality schemes and trying to change some of our public services.  Over the last few years, I’ve been heavily involved in self-employment as it can be ideal when employers are still reluctant and we may need to keep control of where, when and how we work.  There are some wonderful stories of how people have changed their lives – feeling better and happier.  We were just on the brink of more inclusive support for business start-ups when the recession hit and the Government changed.

Over the years, I’ve heard from lots of people who are hugely frustrated, depressed and isolated because their efforts to get a job just result in repeated rejections.  I’m convinced that there are millions of disabled people who would work if they could but haven’t had the help they need or the opportunities they deserve.  Just pushing them through programmes designed for other long-term unemployed people can seem more about a target-driven process than getting the best from this national resource.  There are still lots of questions  as to whether the forthcoming Work and Health programme will deliver the radically different approach we need – and demolish the ultimate barrier: employers’ attitudes.

With lots of help from those with specialist knowledge about disability and employment, we put together our Steps to Success and Sustainable work models that show that just one organisation will rarely have all the skills and capacity to provide every variation of support.    Our Help to Work partnership showed that multiple organisations embedded in the local community working together can succeed where parachuted national providers may not.

Along the way, there have been many more topics to debate from the disability perspective:

You can see my blogs with lots of images of my flower arrangements and some recipes.  The last gives a clue to my latest venture: Baking Blind.  The cooking videos and recipes are just another way of trying to show that having a disability isn’t the end of the world and that blindness or any other impairment doesn’t stop us doing most things.  I’ve rather optimistically entered an international competition to take the idea around the world.  And I’ll be blogging more recipes over coming months – and about how I’m bashing bowls out of pewter!  One of my taxi drivers has been teaching me some of his dishes and we have a whole range of great bakes for Comic Relief coming next.


Penny Melville-Brown OBE

Disability Dynamics ltd

Helping disabled people to work since 2000

You Tube

Guest chef, John, helps cook outstanding French dishes.

On Baking Blind, I’m always keen to learn from anyone who loves cooking and has some fabulous food ideas to share.  This week, taxi driver John stepped back in to the kitchen to show me outstanding Pork Dijonnaise.  It’s not difficult and doesn’t use exotic ingredients so perfect for a meal to impress!

Sauteed potatoes, pork dijonnaise and french beans

The finished article.

With garlic sautéed potatoes and French beans, it served four very generously for under £10 and could be just perfect for a special lunch or dinner for Mothers’ Day next weekend.  Even I could manage the cooking!

Watch me cook with John on You Tube or download the recipe at

Penny Melville-Brown OBE

Disability Dynamics ltd

Helping disabled people to work since 2000




Can I beat you at the Saturday Kitchen omelette challenge with my eyes shut!

Although being blind I have the advantage

I’m Penny from Baking Blind.

Vlogs, recipes and my story are all at in my garden

I’m an entrant in the San Francisco Lighthouse organisation’s Holman Prize – there’s 90 seconds about my dream of cooking around the world at YouTube

There are nearly 200 other blind entrants from all around the world wanting to fulfil their different ambitions.

The support of you and your listeners would make an amazing difference for all of us.


Can’t see but can cook and dream…

I am competing alongside around 100 other international blind people for the inaugural Holman prize being awarded by the San Francisco ‘Lighthouse’ organisation to allow the winner to fulfill their dream.
Each of us has created a short video clip – there are many excellent ideas from amazing people. My own goal is to take the ‘Baking Blind” channel and website around the world: cooking with other people and showing that life with a disability can still be fun, fabulous and fulfilling. I’ve spent nearly 20 years helping other people with health conditions and impairments to get back to work so I know there’s lots of talent out there if others can look beyond our disabilities and see the people we are.
The prize commemorates James Holman who became blind while serving in the Royal Navy in the early 19th century –his adventures travelling solo around the world are celebrated in his biography “A Sense of the World”. Coincidentally, I am also a blind veteran having left the Royal Navy as a Commander in 1999.
You can support me with a ‘Thumbs Up’ for my YouTube clip at:
And see other dreams for the Holman prize at . First round ‘voting’ closes on 7 March 2017.

Penny sitting in the garden

Fire Brigade stars

Woke up to an alarm going off with the audio message that it was a fire. Just too difficult to manage when one can’t see so dialled 999. Amazing amount of adrenalin pumping and heart pounding! Fabulous chaps from the Fire and Rescue Service were here within minutes and did a full investigation, decided that the alarm was faulty and swapped it with another.

Added bonus was that they took one of my Baking Blind leaflets and are going to have a look at the video:

I’m on a mission to spread the word and get more support!

Best wishes


If you think that disability is no bar to being a great cook, please Like my 90 second Baking Blind clip

You Tube 

probationery third officer melville brown WRNSI’m thrilled to have been invited to join the competition for the Holman prize being run by the San Francisco Lighthouse organisation for blind and visually impaired people ( $25,000 to enable a blind person to fulfil their ambition.

Spookily enough, it commemorates another blind Royal Navy officer: James Holman travelled around the world solo in the early 19th century.  And, of course, in this centenary year for the Women’s Royal Naval Service, its good to have a female perspective too!

Cooking around the world would be my own adventure to show  that , while being blind still doesn’t limit our ambition and abilities , 21st century life makes our aspirations even more achievable.  And our modern communications (like my Baking Blind YouTube channel, blogs, website and more) can shine a different light on life with a disability for a truly international audience.

Cakes with icing and pewter decorations

Cakes with icing and pewter decorations

I’d be hugely grateful if you could support my bid for the prize.

Please Share and encourage your friends and contacts (at home and overseas) to do the same.

While the prize would be a great boost, I’m still committed to Baking Blind as a way to show that living with a disability can be fun and fulfilling.    I’m always adding new videos to the channel and the recipes are available from (and can be downloaded as accessible word documents).  I’d very much welcome your contribution: ideas, any practical support, recipes, links to your material and more.

You might also be interested in why I joined the navy.

The finished article

The finished article

Penny Melville-Brown OBE

Disability Dynamics ltd

Helping disabled people to work since 2000