If you enjoy cooking, you can continue to feel at home in the kitchen with some simple adaptations and the help of special equipment.
Many people who have sight loss love to cook and bake. Here we share a range of tips – and links to some relevant videos – which people with sight loss have come up with to help you get back into the kitchen with confidence.
Arrange your kitchen so that everything you need is easily to hand; keep different things in the same place so they are easier to find. It also helps to keep your worktops as free from unnecessary clutter as possible.
If you have some sight, then good lighting helps. Also, ensure there is as much colour contrast as possible between your work surfaces and the items you’ll put on them. For example, if your work surface is dark, then use a light chopping board. If the chopping board is light, then use a dark handled knife and so on.
Choose bowls with dark interiors to mix light coloured foods and vice versa.
You can adapt standard equipment to work for you by adding bumpons and using Tacti-Mark. Bumpons are self-adhesive dots, or squares, which come in different colours and sizes. You simply peel them off and place them on buttons, around dials and so on, giving you a highly visible and tactile indicator of things, such as your most frequently used temperature setting.
Tacti-Mark is a liquid plastic that sets hard. It is excellent for marking tools and appliances and it can be used as a teaching aid for writing letters, numbers, drawing pictures or outlining maps. It comes in black and bright orange and can also be used to mark buttons, dials and more.
Use the right knife for cutting and slicing. A blunt knife is not necessarily safer than a sharp one because you need to exert more pressure and the knife might slip.
Keep your knuckle against the side of your knife as a guide – this way you can also measure the thickness of the slices you want.
You can also buy bread slicing guides, which enable you to slice bread evenly and at different thicknesses.
A chopping board with a funnel end is very useful when directing food into a pan or bowl.
You could also use a food processor – with the appropriate chopping or slicing attachment – to deal with fruit or vegetables.
It is helpful to use a D design peeler with a free-moving blade. Or avoid peeling by scrubbing vegetables thoroughly – of course, some vegetables have more nutritional value with their skins left on.
Some people find talking scales useful, whereas others prefer balance scales with weights on the side. You can add braille, or tactile markings, to weights to indicate the amount they weigh.
Consider recipes that use cups – or spoons – as units of measurements or purchase a talking measuring jug. Alternatively, you can adapt a standard measuring jug with seed beads glued on to the inside at various levels (100ml, 200ml and so on). If so, use a heat-resistant, non-toxic glue such as araldite.
Marc Powell, who has sight loss, said: "I've never been into baking before because I thought it would be far too difficult, but this kit really made a difference."
You can avoid having to drain hot liquids by cooking vegetables in a chip basket, or vegetable steamer. Then simply lift it out of the pan on to a plate when cooked.
You can also buy pasta pans with lock-down lids. They have two handles which allow you to tip the whole pan while knowing that the lid is locked secure and the water is poured out through a drainage hole. Use this type of pan for pasta and vegetables.
Liquid level indicators are useful when pouring hot liquids. This is a gadget that either vibrates or gives an audible signal when the glass or cup is almost full.
If you’re worried about using a kettle to make a cup of tea or coffee, you might like to try a hot water dispenser instead. You can make hot drinks easily using a “one-cup” kettle. These kettles automatically dispense a mug’s worth of boiling water straight into your mug.
When boiling vegetables, you can place a water boil alert at the bottom of the pan to help detect when the water is bubbling.
Using a microwave to cook vegetables is often easier and safer. You can also fry chips and other food using an air fryer. These often require just one tablespoon of oil and fry the food in a sealed container which doesn’t get hot to the touch.
When stir-frying, use a bigger pan than normal as it gives more room to stir vegetables around without losing them from the pan.
If you are concerned about using a hot hob or an oven, a slow cooker can be a useful alternative. A slow cooker is like a casserole pot with a small electric heater that slowly cooks your food. Put all your ingredients into the cooker on your work surface while the cooker is cold and then leave them to cook.
When shopping for food, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Many large supermarkets have specially trained staff to help. Having someone to help you label the food when you get home can be useful, although there are other ways of marking your tins and boxes:
Tear part of the label off of a tin to identify it.
Put one elastic band around the tinned tomatoes, two around the peaches and so on.
Put a magnetic plastic letter (available from toy shops) on top of tins.
Braille labels can be used by those who read braille.
Use large postage labels and write the contents of the tin on them using a thick black marker. You can then stick or tie these on to the tin.
Talking tin lids which attach magnetically, can be used to record the contents of tins. The contents can then be played back with the touch of a button at a later date.
PenFriend audio labellers enable you to record your own label for a wide range of items in and around the home (as well as at school and work). It can also be used while shopping to label items as you put them in your shopping basket, so you know what they are when you get home.
The following kitchen products are all popular products that will fit in to kitchens with ease and can help you to cook safely.
Mains-operated talking kitchen scales are a good solution to weighing food. They announce weight measurements and usually have an adjustable volume control.
Kim Jaye is a keen and talented cook and has sight loss. She said: “I can't live without my scales with the amount of cooking I do.”
Manual versions are a great alternative to using an electric food processor; they can cut all kinds of vegetables and also blend and mix. Try using a non-slip mat under the processor to help stabilise it while you are mixing in ingredients.
Coloured chopping boards are ideal for offering contrast on your worktop. Non-slip versions provide a stable base on which to cut your food and also sometimes come with raised sides to stop your food sliding off.
Dycem is a material used to make a number of non-slip products for the kitchen and around the home. Dycem is not sticky, but it grips on both sides of its surfaces preventing movement on dry, slippery surfaces. It is ideal for holding plates and glasses in place while you are eating and drinking.
It can also be used for holding mixing bowls and chopping boards in place too, which makes preparing food much easier. All Dycem products are non-toxic, latex-free, colourfast, odourless and easily washed.
Talking measuring jugs can be used for hot and cold liquids and give a talking output.
These machines usually announce power settings and cooking times as you set them; they may also alert you to the cooking time remaining and tell you when the time is completed. Some versions will also alert you when the door is open – and that the contents may be hot.
Kim Jaye explained: “I love my gadgets in the kitchen but I tell people with sight loss that I struggle with them because they have dials, digital displays and knobs – and I can’t work out what they are unless I get assisted support. RNIB has developed this amazing talking microwave which is simple to use and only has four simple buttons to use.”
Access a range of recipe books in accessible formats from the RNIB Library. You'll need to be a member of the library to access these titles. Sign up for free online or call our Helpline on 0303 123 9999.
You can also watch one of our videos below, featuring people with sight loss talking about their tips and equipment they use at home which helps make things easier.
Georgie and Marc have created a helpful – and funny – video about cooking, watch below!
RNIB's Technology for Life Coordinator, Madleen Bluhm, loves to cook. In 2020, she reviewed the BBC Good Food app, which includes a number of recipes.
Madleen Bluhm reviewed ckbk, which has brought together recommendations from hundreds of world-class chefs and food writers to create a ranking of the most essential cookbooks of all time.