Guest Author - Jeanetta Polenske
Every Thursday afternoon, Emily takes a cooking class at disAbility Solutions for Independent Living (DSIL) in Daytona Beach. Even though she is legally blind and has cerebral palsy, she lives on her own, cooks her own meals and works at a part-time job.
She is one of 12 students in the program where they learn to cook meals and socialize with others. Federal stimulus funds have allowed DSIL to build a wheelchair-accessible kitchen with three cooking stations. The students are trained in kitchen safety and use equipment that is developmentally or physically appropriate.
Cooking can be fun and a great way to instill independence. While many people with disabilities simply use equipment purchased at the local store and learn to cook in their own way, adapted tools for the kitchen are readily available.
The following list is by no means complete; it merely suggests some items that can be found which can make tasks easier.
If you have arthritis or carpal tunnel, these utensils can help:
- Rocker T-knife requires less strength and dexterity to cut
- Veggie and Fruit Peeler with suction base and 2 prongs to hold food for one-handed peeling
- Easi-Grip Spatula has a 90 degree handle for more comfort
- Easi-Grip Grater
- Easi-Grip Cheese Slicer
For cooks who are blind or have low vision, try the following tools:
- SpeaksVolumz Talking 3-Cup Measuring Cup tells you the volume or weight with the touch of a button
- One-Touch Can Opener operates on batteries with one button to start
- The Prep Machine has 5 accessories to clean, peel, whisk, froth and blend
- The Ove Glove can be worn on either hand to safely remove a hot pan without getting burned
- All-In-One Bottle, Jar, Tab, and Cap Opener
If you have the use of one hand only, here are some handy ideas:
- Tongs can be managed with one hand and used to pick up light objects, hold and flip food and, with practice, hold delicate food without damaging it. They can help hone fine motor skills.
- There is a scoop with a flexible silicone back to pick up food in measured portions.
- The Bagel Guillotine holds a bagel and safety shields protect the blade
The following are helpful cooking implements to aid with limited dexterity:
- Cooking tools with non-skid surfaces help keep them from slipping. Mixing bowls are one example and there is also a trivet that can be placed under a bowl or plate in addition to being used to grip various surfaces. Cutting boards are available with a textured, non-skid base.
- The Can Drainer was designed to snap onto the sharp edge of a can to prevent injury.
- To cut fruits and vegetables safely, plastic lettuce knives are a safe choice. The edge is not sharp and they come in many styles. The Pizza Wheel is another plastic cutting tool with many uses.
- Open cans with Smooth Edge Opener, although it requires increased hand strength.
- The Bag Opener has a blade that is safe to use, but needs two hands to use.
- Palm Peeler slides on one finger while the other hand holds the vegetable or fruit being peeled, but has a sharp exposed blade.
- For slicing and chopping, a chop and grate set has spinning blades when pushed onto the food as long as the piece to be chopped is first cut to 3กจ. It can also be used to grate cheese, but requires the ability to push the top down with enough pressure.
- Collapsible cups fold flat and have clear measuring amounts printed on them. Similar measuring spoons are also available.
- Nesting bowls have measuring amounts printed on the bottom and come in colors to help sort ingredients for a recipe.
- A liquid measuring cup is angled, has easy to read measurements and a sturdy handle with a grip.
- Battery-operated sifter for baking soda, baking powder and flour
- Battery-operated pepper mill
As always, use safe cooking techniques. Inquire about cooking classes in your community adapted for the disabled. Let others help teach tasks that are unfamiliar and don't forget to enjoy yourself.