In the Fredericton region, CNIB supports 1200 individuals who are blind or partially sighted and are in varying stages of adjusting to vision loss. Many of them need rehabilitation, training and resources to remain independent, travel safely, connect with others, go to school, find employment and live a healthy and active life.
For many people, loss of sight is a very isolating and overwhelming experience. Everyday activities that people take for granted (like reading, cooking, walking) can be difficult or even impossible without the right support and training. Other than assistance with reading, people with vision loss most often request help with activities of daily living – cooking, personal care, mobility and household management. CNIB helps them get back to doing the things they use to do for themselves, but in a new way.
CNIB’s independent living specialist works with people in their homes so they can safely and independently complete day-to-day tasks. Cooking lessons, food preparation tips, and grocery shopping are essential components of daily living that often seem like impossible tasks to someone who has recently lost vision. While instruction has been traditionally provided one-on-one, CNIB wanted to explore the idea of group lessons that encouraged participants to meet new people and learn from each other. The grant from the Fredericton Community Foundation allowed CNIB to trial the first Safety in the Kitchen program in Fredericton.
The sessions were held at the Sobeys Community Room and were facilitated by CNIB specialists and Sobeys Nutritionists. Participants met weekly in May and June and explored a variety of topics related to nutrition, shopping, cooking, and kitchen safety. CNIB promoted the program to clients who were still adjusting to vision loss but also encouraged others who might have experience to share to join as well. One client, who is fairly isolated and shy, was also encouraged to attend as a way of meeting new people and getting out in the community.
Participants completed evaluation forms and gave feedback on what they found helpful and what could be improved. All of the participants felt they learned valuable techniques and tried adaptive kitchen tools that would allow them to be more confident in the kitchen. They also enjoyed the grocery store tour that came with advice on choosing produce, reading labels and preparing affordable nutritious meals. Feedback included these comments:
“This was a very enjoyable program. It was interesting, and entertaining. The things we learned will be very helpful in everyday use.”
“She showed us so many great utensils and shared ideas that make working in the kitchen safe and enjoyable. Also, ways to keep the mess down (Ha!)”
“I am so glad and fortunate to be a part of this program. Some of us need it more than others. However, we learn from each other and it’s all good!”
In particular, the session seemed to create a renewed interest in cooking for Edna Bradley-Carr. Edna is a CNIB NB Board member and client who came to CNIB after years of struggling with her vision loss. After going through a difficult period and not wanting to accept any help, Edna came to an Adjustment to Vision Loss group. There she met other people who could relate to her experience, she began to accept her new reality and work toward regaining independence. After the group finished, Edna agreed to get a white cane and get instruction in orientation and mobility – a big deal after keeping her vision loss from others. The white cane opened up a new world for Edna and she started to enjoy recreational and social activities again. Still, Edna had not really gained back her independence in the kitchen. Coming to the Safety in the Kitchen program helped Edna realize that she could once again prepare food and cook without the assistance of her husband. Edna came to the group for the social aspect but left with a new found confidence and commitment to taking back her kitchen.
Denise Coward, CNIB