Preparing for the holidays: Tips and tricks to make cooking accessible

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon
Adaptive Cooking

For people with disabilities, cooking could seem like an overwhelming task, rather than the enjoyable pastime it has the potential to be. Out of reach ingredients, unreadable descriptions, tools that are a struggle to grip – the list goes on. With Thanksgiving fast approaching, these concerns are at the forefront of many people’s minds. So we at Rooted in Rights decided to put together some resources and helpful tips for people with disabilities looking to spend some fun, successful, time in the kitchen this holiday.

The author of the article, “Ten Tips for Cooking with a Disability or Injury,” Hannah Katsman, wrote her list based on her time spent cooking with her mother, who has severe arthritis. However, many of her suggestions work well for general cooking and kitchen accommodations. Katsman proposes ideas such as keeping commonly used appliances, tools, and ingredients easily accessible and in-reach, investing in kitchen tools that eliminate cooking steps, including electric food processors or can openers, and switching tasks frequently to avoid putting strain on specific muscles. Finally, Katsman concludes her list with the advice to be aware of personal limits, saying, “My mother stopped at the first signs of strain. If you need to lie down and rest, do so. No meal is worth a setback in your condition.”

NPR also took it upon themselves to address how to make kitchens more accessible. They spoke with Nicolas Steenhout, a disability rights activist with a background as a professional chef, in the piece, “Cooking With Disabilities: An Exercise In Creative Problem Solving.” The article states, “In a perfect world, Steenhout says, everyone would have a fully adapted kitchen. This means different things depending on someone’s disabilities, but it could involve, for instance, lowered countertop heights or new appliances. But given that many people have trouble funding a remodel for a basic necessity like making their front stairs wheelchair accessible, such kitchen overhauls are usually financially out of reach.” Instead of these more expensive options, NPR offers tips for personal ways to make a kitchen more accessible, such as attaching a small mirror on a pole to your wheelchair to easily view items cooking on the stovetop and buying measuring cups with braille labels.

In addition to home improvements and personal hacks, adaptive cooking classes for people with disabilities can be a fun way to improve your skills in the kitchen and is a strong example of how people with disabilities are empowering themselves and making a fun pastime accessible and enjoyable. Brenda Ryan, organizer for Adaptive Cooking Classes in Ontario, Canada, states, “If you eat, then you qualify to learn something in the kitchen.” Talking about his love of cooking and his experience with the adaptive cooking class, one of her participants, Clifton Young, stated, “I can do it. Just learning that I can do it is such a boost to my self-confidence and everything.”

Check out the video below to learn more about Ryan and her organization! Additional resources for making cooking accessible to people with disabilities can be found in the PDF, “Cookbooks and Cooking for People with Disabilities.

This video may begin with a commercial which was not chosen by or for the benefit of Rooted in Rights.

Emily Pate is a third-year student at Seattle University interested in Strategic Communications, learning Spanish, and working with non-profits. Her work for Rooted In Rights is focused on discussing current events in the community of people with disabilities. Her experience previous to Rooted In Rights includes writing broadcasts for KBOO radio in Portland, OR, and managing a neighborhood blog in the Seattle community. In addition to work, Emily enjoys drawing, spending time with her friends and family, and backpacking.

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