4 Kitchen Modifications for Someone with a Visual Impairment
With so much time spent in the kitchen and so many important tasks accomplished there, this is one room in your house that should take priority when you are making home accommodations for a loved one with a visual impairment. From contrasting colors to speaking timers, there are so many ways you can make the kitchen a more accessible place for your visually impaired loved one.
1. Create a High-Contrast Kitchen
People with vision impairment navigate the kitchen much more easily when there is a high color contrast. If your countertops and cabinets are similar colors, it is difficult for a person with a vision impairment to know when one ends and the other begins. It’s also difficult to distinguish cabinet doors and handles if they are similar in color and blend together. Consider installing new kitchen countertops to create a high-contrast kitchen; choose dark colors if you have light cabinets or light colors if you have dark cabinets. Also, consider the color of your kitchen sink and faucet and make sure they contrast with your countertops. If you already have dark countertops and a contrasting sink and faucet, consider painting your cabinets a light color to create a high-contrast kitchen.
It’s also important that your appliances, such as your dishwasher and range, contrast with your cabinets so your loved one with a visual impairment can easily locate them. Some manufacturers sell front panels for dishwashers in contrasting colors so you can swap your existing one for a new color. Another option is to get a dishwasher cover magnet that features a pattern or illustration to make it stand out from your cabinets.
Also, consider the colors of your cabinet door knobs and drawer handles. If they currently create a monochromatic color scheme, paint them or install new hardware that contrasts your cabinet and draw color. While you are modifying your cabinets and drawers, add strips of colored tape to door edges to make it easier for someone with a visual impairment to locate them. And, if the shelves inside your cabinets are similar in color to your dinnerware, paint them a contrasting color or install slip-proof shelf liners to make your dinnerware more visible.
2. Label Food
Because so many canned goods and dry goods come in containers of similar sizes and shapes, it is difficult for people with visual impairment to distinguish between various products. There are several ways you can help your loved one identify food in the kitchen, and the solution for you may come down to personal preference. Some families opt for simple solutions like placing rubber bands, file cards, or tactile dots on food items. Other families opt for talking label systems.
3. Modified Appliances
Of course, people with visual impairment want to be as independent as possible in the kitchen. Purchasing modified appliances helps to make that independence attainable. Some appliance manufacturers offer alternative labels, such as those in Braille, upon request. Other manufacturers offer talking appliances specifically designed for people with low or no vision. Talking microwave ovens and cooking thermometers are some of the more popular kitchen items for people with visual impairment. Other manufacturers offer products with tactile controls and features.
It’s also a good idea to know how various appliance controls are rated. The American Foundation for the Blind’s testing lab has created three categories for controls based on accessibility: accessible controls, inaccessible controls, and ambiguous controls. Accessible controls are the best for people with visual impairment because they allow them to feel and confirm settings while the appliance operates.
4. Food Preparation Safety
It’s always good to keep safety in mind when considering kitchen modifications for someone with a visual impairment. For example, purchase a cutting board that is light on one side and dark on the other to create a color contrast for whatever food needs to be cut. Finger guards are available to prevent cuts, or you can purchase knives that have cutting guards on them to make a certain size cut to food with each slice. Other options are using kitchen shears or a pizza cutter when preparing some foods.
With a few key modifications to your kitchen, you can ensure the independence and safety of someone with a visual impairment. High contrast colors, food labels, modified appliances, and safe cutting tools can make your kitchen much more accessible for your visually impaired loved one.