Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Cooking with AT Part 2

In the first part of this series, I placed a general spotlight on the great products OXO makes. While they are fantastic, they certainly aren't all that is out there. So I'd like to talk about some of the other products out there that help people in the kitchen.

The Ove Glove

I was looking at a listing of the top 12 kitchen injuries on (, and the number 3 injury was oven burns. Now, they talk about people brushing the sides or top of the oven when taking things in or out. Sometimes, pot holders or regular oven mitts are too cumbersome to use effectively. The Ove Glove is a nice little product because it gives you all 5 fingers free I also gives you a non-slip textured grip which can help you hold on to pots, roasting pans, or anything hot you may be trying to pick up and move. 
photo of the ove Glove oven mitt. It shows the 5 fingers of the glove. The glove also has anti-slip ribbing on the palm and fingers.

How does it do with heat? Well, I was able to pick up a 12" cast iron pan out of a 425 oven and the only thing I felt was the weight of the pan. The heat didn't come through at all even when I held it for a while. 

Finding an Ove Glove shouldn't be too difficult, a simple Google search showed I have 4 stores near me that carry them, two actually in Delaware, as well as lots of options if you're willing to order online. the best price I found was $16.99 with free shipping from Still, look around and see what you can see.

Talking Thermometer

One of the tools I find myself using more and more in the kitchen is the thermometer. My wonky oven aside, I've learned that it's good to be able to check the actual internal temperatures of some things when you're cooking. Go figure! Imagine trying to check the temperature on something if you're reading one of the older "dial style" thermometers or even a digital one with small print.


So what can I use instead? Try a talking digital thermometer. Yep, they do make talking digitals for the kitchen too. One that I've found that I think does a great job is the RT8400 Digital Talking Thermometer from ThermoWorks. The unit has a very simplistic design--big LCD display and a big button you press to hear the temperature. No fuss, no muss.
Photo of the RT8400 Digital Talking thermometer. The picture shows the unit's large LCD display and the large talk button directly below the LCD screen.

The thermometer can take reading in seconds, reads in both Fahrenheit and Celsius, has a nice little cover/sheath to protect the probe, and is even nicely shaped to easily fit the user's hand. Right now, ThermoWorks has the unit marked down from $39 to $29. One of the things I really like about this unit, and about ThermoWorks, is that they explicitly say that this unit works well for people with a visual impairment. I don't know if that was indeed a target audience when the thermometer was being designed, but I'm glad that they do acknowledge it's usefulness to people with visual impairment. You can see the thermometer on the ThermoWorks website at

Covered Ice Cube Trays

I'm posting this one because for some reason, I'm having a few requests for these at work. The unit that we have on the shelves at work is no longer available. It's actually kinda neat. You take the cap off of the end, fill the bottle with water up to the fill line, put the cap back on and then lay it down in the freezer. When the water had frozen, all you had to do was bang slam pound hammer tap the bottle on a hard surface and then shake the bottle. Take the cap off and presto! A dozen or so little round ice cubes ready to use. I never would have thought that such a simple little device which previously I never saw leave the resource center would quickly become so popular. Here's a look at the old Make 'n' Shake ice trays.

Picture of the make and shake ice tray with the lid off.Photo of the make and shake ice tray.
 In talking to the people who were searching high and low for these things I came to learn that These ice trays are very popular with users who have arthritis or manual dexterity problems. There's none of the grabbing the tray and twisting to free up the cubes. Considering as how I would either launch ice cubes or break the trays in trying to get all of the cubes out of regular trays, I think I can even get behind these. The problem is, this particular tray is no longer available. 

Enter The Replacements!

There are a few other covered ice cube trays on the market that seem like suitable replacements. One is the from OXO and it's fantastic. 
Photo of the OXO covered ice cube tray. The cover is pulled back some so you can see the tray beneath.
This lovely little ice tray has nicely rounded compartments for the cubes, making it easier for them to slide out of the tray. The lid also makes it easier to stack without spilling. Yep, that means no more glaciers in the freezer due to spillage! You can check it out on the OXO website at

Another nice option for covered ice cube trays is also pretty darned cool. It's also called simply the covered ice cube tray. It's really just a simple design-- snap on top with a fill hole. That's it. Don't believe me? Check it out yourself.

Want to fill it? Just snap the top on firmly and then flip back the cover on the fill-hole. Snap the fill-hole cover back in place and pop it in the freezer. Ready to take the cubes out? Take the cover off and work the tray. OK, so I would have to do a little twisting, BUT if I keep the lid on, I can actually flip the tray over first and then pound hammer tap on the bottom to loosen up the cubes. Then I just flip it back right-side up, take off the cover, and I'm ready to enjoy the cold magic of my ice cubes! If this model is more to your liking, you can check it out at

There are lots and lots of different "kitchen gadgets" that also double for AT, and similarly, a lot of AT that can be useful kitchen gadgets. One tool you may want to make sure you have available in the kitchen is a "reacher"/grabber. The key to finding a useful reacher for the kitchen is finding one that you can comfortably use to take cans, jars, bottles, or whatever off of shelves. I usually like a reacher with a good, solid grip so it can hold on to items easily, rubberized jaws so they can hold things without them slipping out of the jaws, and good light weight so I'm not fighting the weight of the reacher while I'm trying to lift something with it. There are a lot of different models and makes available, so I recommend taking your time and looking at a few before making your purchase. 

More resources

I found more helpful information on cooking with a disability from the following resources:

"Ten Tips for Cooking with A Disability or Injury" from the Cooking Manager blog has some great ideas. The author has written a follow-up post, "More Tips on Cooking with A Disability or Injury," which has even more useful help. You can find the first blog posting at and the second one at

The Disabled Hands blog has a kitchen section with lots of selections of useful kitchen items for people with limited dexterity. They have a large array of items to check out as well as commentary from users on just how useful the items are. Definitely a great resource. You can find it at has a nice article on it's website entitled, "Making the Kitchen Safe and Convenient for Seniors." While the title says it's for seniors, the tips are great for improving the overall accessibility of any kitchen. You can find it at

Monday, July 23, 2012

Allez Cuisine! Cooking with AT

I love to cook. Ask anyone who knows me and they'll tell you that I really, really love to cook. The kitchen often is my sanctuary when the rest of the world seems to go crazy. During grad school when the rigors of my thesis would weigh heavily on me, I'd spend some time in the kitchen and make a delicious meal for my roommate, his girlfriend, and whomever else just happened to come by.

I know a lot of people with disabilities also share my love of cooking, but the kitchen can be problematic if you have dexterity or fine-motor issues. There's a lot of assistive technology that can help people be more than successful in their culinary pursuits. From modified utensils to protective equipment, there is a lot of really good stuff out there to help people.

Good Tools for Good Eats

Now, I don't know about you, but when I think accessible cooking utensils, I think OXO. OXO is the maker of the Good Grips line of kitchen tools. These tools were designed incorporating the principles of universal design. Now, this is where I could go into a very long lecture class diatribe discussion about universal design and it's merits, but I will save that for some resources on the subject at the end of the post. Still, the idea of universal design refers to "The design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest  extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design." (courtesy of North Carolina State University's Center for Universal Design,

OXO has thoroughly embraced universal design. In fact, OXO actually says it was founded on the principles of universal design, and it's more than obvious in the development of it's products.  From angled measuring cups that you can read from the top instead of the side to a pepper grinder that's not only easy to adjust the grind but also easy to grind, the attention paid to universally designed products shines through. While they might not have specialty items like scoop dishes or weighted utensils, you may be surprised by all of the wonderful tools they do have. I know personally, I will never use another whisk but my OXO GoodGrips whisk. You don't have to go to fancy shops to get GoodGrips kitchen tools. Here in Delaware you can get them at Boscov's, Bed Bath and Beyond (watch out for that Beyond part! Found a Dalek in there once), Kitchen Kapers and even Williams Sonoma. If you want to check out the great products they have, visit their website

YouTube video that talks about OXO's design philosophy.

For more information on Universal Design, you can visit the North Carolina State University's Center for Universal Design's website at

There's also a nice website devoted to helping people better understand universal design called Universal Design Education. The website is

Make sure you come back and I will be posting more kitchen friendly AT!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Listen With Your Eyes, Sing With Your Hands

I've been out on vacation back home in sunny, beautiful California with my son. In our travels, we went to Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk for the glory of the Big Dipper roller coaster and for my son's first rock concert! Blue Oyster Cult was giving a free concert as part of a Friday night free concert series being put on there.
Picture of a banner announcing the free friday night bands on the beach concert series at Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

When we found my brother and our spot for the concert, I saw something interesting. In the back of the concert area was a sign marking the section for the deaf and hard of hearing. I thought that was cool and figured the distance from the stage was to protect anyone with already damaged hearing from further damage due to the loud music. The area also had bleacher style seating, which I thought a little curious, but didn't pay that much attention to.

So the concert starts, and the MC introduces the man who will be doing the ASL (American Sign Language)  interpretation for the concert. How cool! I thought that was pretty progressive to have an ASL interpreter at the show, but I wasn't really seeing how it would work. 

The ASL interpreter for the concert on stage.

Now, I've been to concerts before with people who were deaf. I'll never forget seeing the group of folks I later learned were deaf at my first AC/DC concert. They were the brave folks who were really close to the speakers. I learned later it was so they could feel the music coming from the speakers. When the band did "For Those About To Rock," the group would all jump and cheer each time the cannons fired (if you don't know the song, yes I said cannons for a 21 gun salute). It was an incredible sight that undoubtedly made a lasting impression. So the idea that you couldn't enjoy music if you have any sort of hearing impairment wasn't one I had. There was also that Beethoven guy, but I won't dive into that story right now.

Back to Blue Oyster Cult. . .

The lead singer starts talking to the crowd making sure we're ready to rock.  The interpreter, standing on stage in clear view of the hard of hearing section, is interpreting what he's saying. Cool. I love people take steps to try to be as inclusive as possible. The band starts playing, and the interpreter stays on stage and starts signing the lyrics. Yes, you read correctly--signing the lyrics! Not only did he sign the lyrics, but he kept rhythm as best he could with the band!

Photo of Blue Oyster Cult performing while an ASL interpreter signs the lyrics for their song "Don't Fear The Reaper."

Song after song he was there signing and keeping up with body language emphasis in his signs to match the emphasis the singer had in his voice. Indeed he was burning for you! He did not fear the reaper! He really rocked it out during "Godzilla." He was really giving his interpretation his all, and that was outstanding. What's more, he worked alone. There wasn't a second interpreter to take over. He did it all and kept the energy going.

Then something the MC said hit me--he was tonight's ASL interpreter. That would seem to indicate that this wasn't an anomaly. This was a regular practice. So as fantastic as I thought the interpreter was, the fact that they do this for all of the shows really blew me away.

So of course, I started looking around to see who else is doing this. I figured it's 2012, this can't be that new. It's not. Digging around I saw video on YouTube of different acts with ASL Interpreters at their concerts. I also found a great story from NPR back in 2006 that looks at ASL interpreters. Apparently, under Title III of the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), auditoriums, amusement and recreation facilities are required to provide accessible services. So providing ASL Interpreters is another way that the ADA helps make even music concerts more accessible. 

So you're probably wondering why I'm writing about this in a blog about assistive technology? Well, ASL does actually qualify as AAC, augmented and alternative communication. That makes it AT. While it isn't an AT device, it more closely resembles an AT service. So by providing the ASL interpreter, the concert promoter and the Beach Boardwalk were providing the necessary AT service so that members of the audience who sign could also "listen to" the song lyrics. In an indoor arena,  people with a hearing impairment may have been able to use an assistive listening device--an FM, infrared, or Bluetooth system-- to get clearer audio. However, that still leaves out individuals who would benefit from ASL interpretation. Some theaters are using portable captioning systems to allow those folks access to captions. There are even apps for smartphones and mobile computing devices that tie into existing systems a theater may have, insuring the user that there will always be a unit they can use. However, it still leaves the ASL gap. By providing interpretation services, you make sure that you are as inclusive as you can be. From a human perspective, you're recognizing that things are just more fun when we all can enjoy them.

If you're interested in more information about ASL, you should check out some great information from the National Association of the Deaf at

For more information on ASL interpretation and sign language interpretation in general, you should check out the World Association of Sign Language Interpreters at  

If you want to check out that piece on NPR, you can read it or listen to it at

Here are some examples of ASL interpreters at concerts.

This is video from YouTube of an ASL Interpreter really getting into the music and expressing it in her signing.

Here's another interpreter at a Lady Gaga concert. She's in the lower left portion of the screen facing the audience.

Alana has to be my most favorite ASL interpreter for two reasons. First, she really gets into the interpretation. She owns it and "sings" the song instead of just "speaking" it. Her YouTube handle is lordalana, check her out if you frequent YouTube. Second reason why she's my favorite is because she's interpreting for AC/DC who is one of my favorite groups. This is her interpretation for "You Shook Me All Night Long."

And here's her fantastic interpretation of "Hell's Bells."