Kate and I roared with laughter as we tested one of those kitchen gadgets that are utterly useless https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hKd7uD4GTbk&feature=youtu.be and end up languishing unloved and unused at the back of a drawer.
She’s a wildly enthusiastic supporter of the visually impaired people who are assisted by Southampton Sight www.southamptonsight.org.uk
She’s passionate about encouraging blind people from the city and further afield in Hampshire to get back in to the kitchen: more independence, more social activity and more pleasure alongside better health and better budgeting. No wonder she loves her job when she can make a difference for so many.
We had embarked on the classic English chicken and mushroom pie when she produced what appeared to be a pair of scissors with a small chopping board attached to one blade. With all the enthusiasm we could muster (and even more strength), those scissors just couldn’t get through something as soft as a chicken breast. We gave up and went back to a trusty sharp knife: does the job and easier to wash-up.
I love kitchen gadgets and wouldn’t be without my talking scales and thermometer plus the gizmo that will read any barcode and record my own voice label. But, otherwise, all my kitchen equipment is the same as anyone else’s. Years ago, I had an audio alarm designed to sit on a mug and beep when water, tea or coffee got near the rim. But now there’s a super heater that will boil and pour the right amount of water with one button press – on sale anywhere. I must have been given at least three talking jugs but I never used any of them: they take up too much space, are too fiddly and too slow. It’s easier to remember that 100cl water weighs 100g and use the scales instead.
Visually impaired herself, Kate described how she manages and completely understands how gadgets that claim to be “disability-friendly” don’t always do the job. Often choosing mainstream kit that is familiar and easier to find is the answer. That water heater fits the bill as do a chopping board with a rim on one side to reduce spills, a knife-block that stores the knives between bristles rather than hard-to-find slots, a knife sharpener that clamps to the work surface and more. None of these are more expensive or difficult to find but they are gadgets that are slightly more thoughtful than the norm.
My top two kitchen tips are about storage. A blind person hunting for the right-sized lid for a plastic storage box is either super-organised or wildly frustrated. My answer is Lakeland stacking boxes: three different size boxes that all use the same lid. The joy of throwing the old mismatched collection away.
Secondly, I got rid of most of the kitchen cupboard shelves and replaced them with two or three metal “vegetable or pan” drawers in each. No more scrabbling around to find what has slipped to the back of the cupboard. A wonderful friend (Clare) gathered over a hundred ice-cream boxes from her daughter’s café (again, same size/same lid) and these neatly slot in to the drawers to keep the contents separate and neat(ish).
The moral of this tale is that making a kitchen or other space more accessible doesn’t always mean spending lots of money or getting specialist kit. Understanding the core problems, making the most of off-the-shelf solutions and using your imagination can make a massive difference.
And thanks to Hampshire County Council for sponsoring our cooking sessions for local people with visual impairments.