A variety of clear jars with spices in them on wooden shelf

Life hacks: in the kitchen

London Vision’s life hacks in the kitchen explores tips and tricks for making drinks, snacks, and meals when you are blind or partially sighted. Below you will find a range of suggestions and strategies discussed within our sessions.  

Sources of support  

The RNIB (Royal National Institute of Blind People) helpline is a source of information and support and can be reached on 0303 1239999 or helpline@rnib.org.uk 

You can also by a range of gadgets and equipment from the RNIB shop. Grants can be obtained to support the purchase of specialist kitchen equipment, visit the RNIB website for more information or visit Turn2us.

Your local sensory team will be able to advise you on how to manage in the kitchen when you are blind or partially sighted. They may also be able to supply you with small pieces of equipment that make kitchen tasks a little easier.

You can use the RNIB’s sightline directory to find your local sensory team.  

Organisation  

A clutter free, organised workspace really helps in the kitchen. The saying ‘everything in its place and a place for everything’ really holds true, and knowing where things should be means that you can find them when you need. Try and avoid searching for utensils or ingredients mid-way through a task – get out everything you need before your start and have it all in one place.  

Lighting  

Lighting plays a crucial role in maximising low vision. Most people who have sight loss need significant amounts of extra lighting on the tasks that they are to complete, however, many people are severely impacted by glare or reflected light. Under cupboard lights in a kitchen or task lamps can be used to bring extra light onto kitchen activities. Local sensory teams can advise on task lighting and may in certain circumstances be able to provide task lamps. 

Glare can be prevented by careful positioning of lights and ensuring that surfaces are not reflective. This can be as simple as using a tablecloth or large chopping board. Consider the ‘warmth’ of the light when choosing bulbs. Warmer tones may feel more comfortable and produce less glare but may not produce the crispness of vision of colder tones. Try to avoid creating shadows. Lighting is very personal – experiment to find what works best for you.

For comprehensive advice on lighting your home look at the Thomas Pocklington Trust lighting guide.

Using contrast  

A white onion on a white chopping board is difficult to see as it merges into the board. The same onion on a bright red board becomes easier to see. Orange dots fixed to a cooker control can allow you to set temperatures. 

Colour contrast can be incorporated into the design of your kitchen – contrasts don’t have to be garish and can be created subtly by use of tone. For example, if brown is the primary colour in your kitchen, walls and large areas could be very pale brown, cupboards and work surfaces a darker shade with handles very dark brown. Visit this page for more about adapting your kitchen.  

Making hot drinks  

Making hot drinks can bring challenges when you can’t see how much liquid you’ve poured into a cup or even if the liquid is going into the cup.

Group members have told us about ways of making this everyday task simpler to complete. Many of the suggestions about organising your kitchen, using contrasting colours and improving your lighting work well when applied to other activities such as making snacks. Suggestions from the group: 

Snacks  

Toast     

Here are a few suggestions based on our discussion and e-mail enquiries with blind and partially sighted colleagues at London Vision.  

Spreading butter  

Useful apps that help identify products and read instructions

The are many apps that allow you to quickly and easily identify products or items in your kitchen.  

For details of other apps which assist blind and partially sighted people with daily living visit VitalTech.

Labelling  

Items can be identified by: 

Chopping and peeling  

There’s no shame in buying pre-prepared vegetables and fruits either frozen or fresh. If you are not used to using sharp knives you might want to start by practising on soft fruits such as a banana, progressing to cucumber. 

You will need a sharp knife.  Keeping your fingertips curled out of the way you can use your non chopping knuckle as a guide. Food processors can be a useful way of chopping ingredients, but many do have sharp blades to clean.  

It is very much personal choice as to which vegetable peeler you use. placing potatoes in salty water allows you to feel any unpeeled areas. Try this video produced by Washington School for the Blind, it’s one of many which explore completing kitchen tasks when you are blind or partially sighted.  

Choosing a cooker  

Try this useful guide to choosing a cooker or explore the VitalTech website.  

 

Using the hob  

Oven  

Weighing and measuring   

Judging when food is cooked

Use knowledge of time expected to cook. Set timers on mobile phones or smart speakers or utilise a tactile clockwork timer. Food should smell cooked and the change of texture either with finger or fork will indicate how cooked food is. Talking thermometers can allow you to assess the core temperature of what you are cooking ensuring it is safe to eat

Smart speakers (hey Google, Alexa, Siri)  

Allow quick and easy access to recipes and cooking instructions along with a quick and simple method of setting timers.

Check out YouTube  

YouTube contains hundreds if not thousands of videos illustrating techniques that support blind and partially sighted people in the kitchen, not least the Henshaw’s knowledge hub.

Want more resources? Go back to the Managing Sight Loss course resources page.