Back in November my dearly, beloved gas stove finally died. After almost 10 years of loyal and dedicated service to me the flame literally blew out. Considering it was right before the holiday season it was not the best time to be without an oven, but I am a trooper and did not let it get me down. I just told myself I will go to my local home improvement store and simply purchase another one. But that is when the first battle of the appliance war began.
I naively thought that if I just walked into the store and did a little touch and feel on the appliance top that would be sufficient. In addition, I had done some research on store locations, cost and delivery but not on accessibility. So I went full steam ahead into this unknowing battle and paid for a new oven and had it delivered. I was so excited and immediately started cooking only to discover that the burners had knobs that I could turn, but the oven control was a flat digital screen lay out. This was a major dilemma for me because as a totally blind person I need something tactual instead of all flat. This kind of oven would be hard for me to determine the temperature and I could either overcook or undercook my food.
At first I panicked a little, but quickly calmed down and called the store to discuss returning it and doing an exchange. The sales associate was happy to help and found a GE gas range that had knobs for both the burners and the oven. She mentioned that GE was the only product line she found that had all turnable knobs and no flat digital screen. Since I had not purchased an appliance in several years, I did not realize that manufacturers had changed their product controls to be flat digital screens instead of turnable knobs and dials.
Now, I could order the GE range, but the caveat was that I had to return the current range and wait about 3 weeks to get the new one! I am a cooker who prepares all my meals from home, so this would be a big adjustment which propelled me into battle number two.
As I said before, this was around the holidays and I was scratching my head as to how I would cook my Christmas dinner while waiting for my new range. Again, I did not let this set back get me down and decided to use the strategies I did when I was a newly blind person before I learned how to safely cook. I put together my menu and purchase food items that I could prepare in the microwave or steamer. I also purchased prepared foods like rotisserie chicken, cornbread and sweet potato pie. I learned very interesting ways to microwave eggs for breakfast and steamed all kinds of vegetables for dinner. I ended up having a great holiday meal without a working oven and won the final battle of the appliance war.
On December 30, my new gas ranged finally arrived. But before the delivery man installed it I double-checked those knobs! I gave a sigh of relief as I ensured there were ones for the burners and for the oven. The delivery man remembered me from the first time and smiled as he totally understood why I made him wait before installing it.
I then got a friend to label the dials so that I could properly use my new oven. I use a product called Hi-Mark which is available at CVI’s VisAbility Store. It comes in a squeezable tube with a pen-style top and you can mark all kinds of things with it. Once it dries it puffs up so that you can feel the markings with your fingertips. I use Hi-Mark instead of other labeling aides on my stove because it is heat resistant and won’t burn or melt off when the oven gets hot.
Not only did I find ways to win my battles with my gas range but I won the war as well! In the upcoming weeks we will post Appliance Wars Part II. A good friend and fellow writer, Gail Handler, will share her own battle stories and a few scars she has gotten from dealing with appliances.
For more information on accessible appliances check out these resources. AFB Access World has a couple of articles about accessible appliances:
1. "We’re Cooking Now: A Guide to the Accessibility of Major Appliances"
2. “Good News From the Big Box Store: Accessibility Features for Laundry and Kitchen”
3. “Gone Shopping: An Update on the Accessibility of Kitchen Appliances”
Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access
The National Federation of the Blind’s Accessible Home Showcase