Cooking blind

An interesting article today on the BBC about blind people who cook: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-18491533

I found it fascinating. Cooking is inherently a bit frightening, especially when playing with steam and hot oil, and the thought of doing it blind (or blindfold) is almost terrifying.

But people with visual impairments do it, and some of them are remarkably good at it. The BBC article talks about a lady called Christine Ha who made it to the finals of MasterChef despite being unable to see.

I thought about it a bit more and realized it wasn’t quite as surprising as I originally thought. As with all activities performed by people with disabilities, all that is needed is the right adaptation. So the article talks about talking thermometers, bigger oven mitts, and tactile temperature dials. The article also highlights process-tweaking for making activities disability-friendly; for example, always place things in the same place and place things back as soon as you use them; cut vegetables in a particular way; and rely on time, smell and taste to replace sight.

I remember as a student I had a sudden urge to learn to drive my cycle from hostel to department blind-fold. I was quite sure I could pull it off. I practiced for a few days at night, with a person biking behind me and giving me directions to prevent me from breaking some bones, running into a tree or falling into a pond or something. However, I did not appear to be making progress, and eventually I called it off. I wish I had stuck on – it would have been quite a superpower :-).

A truly eye-opening experience for me was a visit to a place called the Sambhav Resource Center in AADI, New Delhi. I go there as part of my work most times that I am in Delhi but the first time I went there, the staff gave me a full guided tour. Sambhav is an ‘inclusion museum’ in some sense. It recreates an entire house – the study, bathrooms, kitchen, everything – with a bunch of adaptations and aids that help make everything more accessible for someone with a disability. It is a fantastic place that will give you a completely new perspective on many things. For example, every room has flooring of a different color so that people with low vision can distinguish entering into a different room. All stairs are marked in contrasting colors to prevent accidental falls. Spoons, knives, tables, everything is designed so that people with motor disabilities can access them. The great part is that they set the bar really high – even people with cerebral palsy (which leaves someone with really poor muscle coordination) can use most of the equipment at Sambhav.

On a very tangentially related note, I am also reminded of a wife of a friend who, apparently, cannot smell. At first I thought this disability was almost amusing. But then I realized it is something that we should take as seriously as vision impairment. And it’s probably as dangerous. Imagine not being able to smell a gas leak!

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