Kitchen for Seeing Hands

‘The kitchen is the heart of the home.’
Kitchen design key requirements are to meet functional needs according to logical workflows. The starting point when designing any kitchen is to position the fridge, stove, and sink in a workable triangle. Remember the one and half meter distance rule between electrical outlets and sink/water.
Consider these sub-task processes in a kitchen.

-Unpacking food after shopping
-Heating up food
-Refuse and recycling

-Food preparation- Access to food, utensils, equipment, water,
-Serving a meal/distance to carry food
-Storage of household cleaning and ironing equipment

-Tea/coffee/cold drink preparation
-Cleaning up/washing up/putting away dishes
-Cell/mobile/technology charging station

These tasks are required for all people utilising a kitchen for daily tasks, but how can the kitchen be made better for people with low vision? There are four main headings to consider: Colour, lighting, touch (haptic), and hearing (audio). Not forgetting two important senses, those of smell and taste. The aroma and taste of freshly baked chocolate cake. Yummy. A kitchen environment is prone to accidents and mishaps, every effort to reduce risks is required when designing.

Contrast in colour is imperative (Quantifying Contrast in Colour, 21 May 2020 and This is it- Low vision contrasting colour scheme, 23 July 2020) as blogged before. The colour of the floor finish determines the size of the kitchen for visually impaired people. The colour of the cupboards defines the vertical surfaces. The colour of the countertop defines the working surfaces and it must contrast, not be the same colour as the floor.

The three types of lighting must be incorporated into the kitchen design for both aesthetic and functionality; general lighting for overall light in the kitchen (up to 500lux), task lighting over the counter (750lux and above), and feature lighting to create a visual impact (500lux and above). For best flexibility in use, all lights need to be dimmable and on separate zoned switches. Lighting inside cupboards is critical (Lighting Up Dark Places, 23 April 2020).

People with visual challenges strive for independence and use sensory information to complete daily tasks. In a kitchen the oven, hob, microwave oven, food blender, and hand-mixer must have dials to operate them, not finger touch controls. Electrical outlets must be positioned in easily accessible locations. The lever operated sink mixer must include tactile information to identify hot and cold-water supply. A visually impaired person’s sense of hearing is used when listening to a talking thermometer, kitchen scales, and bubbling pot reminders. In addition to these three items, the Enabling Village in Singapore notes that a talking induction cooker, cut resistant safety gloves, and braille/tactile measuring spoons and cups, altogether make up the six tools that belong in every blind or visually impaired person’s kitchen.

Light blue colour glass scale. Flat sheet style scale.
Talking Kitchen Scale
Set of four measuring spoons which include a pouring lip
Measuring Spoons with Tactile Numbers and Braille Information
The brown counter top contrast in colour to the black cutting board. The slice of white bread contrasts on the cutting board to the black cutting board and lime green knife.
Colour Contrast Cutting Board http://www.ABFKitchenSafetyTips

Tactile information is not limited to equipment. Tactile surfaces can be included in the cabinetry on drawer fronts or cupboard doors to assist in identifying a cupboard type and to orientate in the kitchen. The examples below are CNC router cut profiles available in South Africa.

A linear pattern with wide flat, raised stripe with a narrower recessed router cut out on either side. The image has six linear recessed lines.
Patterned Routered
A large, irregular, curvy wave design.
Patterned Routered Board
A grey board with 16 circular ring cut outs. Four across and four down.
Patterned Routered Board

Benjamin Franklin is quoted as saying ‘A place for everything, everything in its place’. This describes the precise and disciplined way in which a kitchen for people with visual impairments must be designed to operate. +


  1. Reblogged this on Going Blind with Insight and commented:

    After response for re-blogging Kathy’s last post, I thought to add this one too. It gives useful information about the utensils and accessories that help anyone to navigate the kitchen safely so that all focus can go on the people enjoying food and time together.


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