Tasty Tools: Assistive Technology in the Kitchen (Part 4)

Whole eggs in a muffin pan, inside of an oven

By Jen Gosett, BS, CTRS, MATP Staff

Welcome back to our ‘AT in the Kitchen’ series!  Last time in Part 3 we went to the grocery store and utilized apps to grab groceries in efficient, supportive, and less stressful ways.  This time we are back in the kitchen with loads of fresh ingredients just begging to be chopped, cooked, and/or baked into deliciousness!  Eating healthy and using what’s on hand can be difficult for everyone; specifically individuals who have support needs centered around memory, organization, and sometimes motivation.  I don’t know if you’re like me, but once I have my fridge stocked, I can feel a little overwhelmed of what to do next with all the fresh ingredients.  It can be challenging to remember everything I have and plan out what I can make with it before it goes bad.  Screenshot of the Fridge Pal appThe Fridge Pal app has been really helpful to me; I can basically create a visual copy of my fridge on my phone so I remember what’s available to use.  “You scan items in using the bar codes. Fresh produce can be entered manually. Look up recipes that combine ingredients so you know how to use items about to go bad.”  In the app, you can also enter an expiration date for each food item.

  • Pro tip: I hate wasting food so I try to organize my refrigerated shelves by keeping in mind what will keep best the longest.  The things that will keep for a while (eggs, cheese, hearty veggies like carrots, etc.) go in the back.  In the front of the shelves, I put things that have a shorter life (avocados, softer fruit like strawberries, fresh deli meat, etc.) so I’ll remember to use those before they go bad.  

Once my fridge is organized, my next step is to prep and start using ingredients.  Hard boiled eggs are a favorite of mine; I can eat them on their own with a little salt, put them in salads, pickle them (yes really!), etc.  Now, I have a confession to share with you: I am terrible at boiling eggs on the stove.  What I do instead is make oven hard boiled eggs using my oven and a muffin tin.  Along with getting more evenly cooked & easier to peel eggs, this method feels safer to me as I don’t have to deal with a big, heavy pot of boiling water once the eggs are cooked.  Here’s my method for baking hard boiled oven eggs (or as I call them ‘Oven Eggs’):

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Place 1 whole, un-cracked egg in each muffin well (no muffin papers needed).
  • Bake for 30 minutes.
  • When 30 minutes are up, use silicone-tipped tongs to carefully take hot eggs out of the tin and gently place them into a medium-size bowl of ice water (I like using these Oxo bowls with the grippy handles and weighted, textured bottoms).
  • Once cooled, you can peel your eggs and put them in your fridge or leave them in their shell (to peel whenever you want to eat one) and place in your fridge (I keep mine in a big plastic sandwich bag so they don’t take up too much room.

3 Oxo mixing bowls

I have some recipes that I like to use in my weekly cooking/baking rotation, but I’m regularly searching for new things to try.  These days, many people have created their own blogs where they share their own recipes.  I’m a repeat user of Pinterest and find that many of the most yummy-sounding/looking recipes on there are from individuals’ food/life blogs; with every amazing cookie recipe, there’s a charming story that goes along with it.  Confession #2: sometimes I just want the recipe.  Am I the only one who feels this way? 😉  Screenshot of a No-Bake Pumpkin Cheesecake Mousse.I’ve found a trick to help with this desire/need: when I scroll thru the blog post to get to the recipe, there’s usually a link to “print version of this recipe”.  When I click this, I get to see just the recipe; I take a screenshot of the print version of the recipe and then I just have it saved as a picture I can access.  Using this trick, you get all of the info you need with less noise and less information to try to sort thru (which can be overwhelming and sometimes a barrier to actually making the dish).  I also find it helpful that I can zoom in on the picture of the recipe if the text is too small in the screenshot. 

Here’s the link to the No-Bake Pumpkin Cheesecake Mousse that’s pictured as a screenshot in this article (spoiler alert: it’s an amazing dessert!).

What tips or tricks do you have for organizing your fridge/pantry and using ingredients?  Share in the comments! (I’d love to know!)

If you missed them, check out Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 of this AT in the Kitchen series!  

Tasty Tools: Assistive Technology in the Kitchen (Part 3)

Hands pushing a full grocery cart down a grocery aisle.By Jen Gosett, BS, CTRS, MATP Staff

Picture this: you’re at your local grocery store and you have a full cart of groceries.  You picked out some healthy things, some treats, and some multi-purpose ingredients.  You did good and know you won’t have to go on a big grocery trip again for a while (hooray!).  You’re about to get into line, but oh no!  You forgot the milk…and it’s on the complete opposite side of the store.  Is anyone getting that sick/annoyed feeling in the pit of their stomach right now just thinking about this?  You’re not alone!  Thankfully, Assistive Technology can help us prepare and plan so that this doesn’t happen/happens less frequently on future trips.  

Welcome to Part 3 of our Tasty Tools: AT in the Kitchen series!  If you missed Part 1 or Part 2, be sure to go back and check them out.  Ok now, this post isn’t technically about AT in the kitchen per se, but it is about AT in the grocery store…which is a means to get the food into the kitchen…You see where I’m going with this right? 😉

Written grocery listLet’s start at the beginning.  How do you make your grocery shopping list?  Do you write your list on paper?  Do you throw caution to the wind and just go to the store with no list (oh the horror lol!)  Do you give consideration to the order that you write down the grocery items in?  I plan my list out by which door I plan to enter my local grocery store through; by doing this I am less likely to forget something and won’t have to go back across the store for it.  For example, if I park by the fruit, veggie, & bakery door, the beginning of my list is going to include strawberries, carrots, hamburger buns, etc.  For people who have needs geared around mobility supports, sometimes it’s not an easy or accessible feat to “just go back” to the dairy aisle; planning by store layout can be a real help.

I gave up my paper grocery list years ago in favor of an electronic list on something that I always have on me; my phone.  I started using the AnyList – Grocery Shopping List & Recipe Manager app to keep track of my needed grocery items and life has not been the same!  I don’t have to worry if I grabbed (or lost) my paper list because it’s all in one place on my phone.  And my life partner can add to our grocery shopping list from his own device (he usually adds mini reese cups)!  For someone with needs that center around memory, this app not only offers a reminder of what to buy, but also an option for others (Direct Support Professionals, family members, etc.) to add items to the person’s list from their own mobile devices.  And on this app, it doesn’t matter which order you input grocery items onto on the list, you can move them around once they are on there (without having to retype them all in).  

Shopping List Free app screen displaying grocery items.Another grocery list app that I have found beneficial is the Shopping List Free app.  It’s similar to AnyList, but it has good contrast between the white text and dark background in the app (can be helpful for people who have low vision).  If you’d like to try out AnyList, Shopping List Free, other grocery shopping list apps, and other shopping supports, contact your local Disability Network and ask for an Assistive Technology demonstration.  

Sam's Club Scan & Go app scanning the bar code for a bunch of bananas.An app that came out this past July (and I love using) is the Sam’s Club Scan & Go app.  With this app, there is no need for the checkout line!  You scan the bar codes of the items you want using your phone or smart device and virtually “checkout” and pay all in the app.  When you’re leaving the store, you just show the staff your confirmation of payment on your phone or smart device and you’re all set.  Waiting in line to checkout is an activity which almost no one enjoys.  For people who have a lower tolerance for sensory input or who have some types of anxiety, bright grocery store lights, fellow shoppers in personal space, and loud, echoing noises can be really disruptive, overwhelming, and stressful.  This bar code scanning & checkout app from Sam’s can make all the difference when grocery shopping; one less barrier to getting the food from the store to the kitchen!  Speaking of the kitchen, stay tuned for Tasty Tools: Assistive Technology in the Kitchen (Part 4).  Coming soon!  

Thanks for reading!

Tasty Tools: Assistive Technology in the Kitchen (Part 2)

Black background, white text. Text says, Siri set an alarm for 60 minutes.

By Jen Gosett, BS, CTRS, MATP Staff

For any of us who enjoy cooking and baking, we know that time is a key ingredient of many recipes.  How long we need to bake cupcakes for, boil water & noodles for, fry an egg, etc. can mean the difference between delicious and disgusting!  The built-in timers on a lot of ovens/appliances are not great to use: text is tiny/hard to read, buttons are cumbersome or inaccurate, the alarm is too quiet or way too loud, etc.

Last year, I started using Siri to tell me when my scones had been in the oven for long enough (usually 16 minutes for my oven).  Early on I learned an important lesson: Siri is not always a great listener.  When I said, “Siri set an alarm for 16 minutes”, Siri heard “Siri set an alarm for 60 minutes.”  There is a huge difference between 16 minutes and 60!  Luckily, my sense of smell helped me realize the error and I was able to get the scones out before they burned!  I told this story to a friend of mine and he suggested telling Siri “one six” instead of “sixteen”.  I tried his idea out and I haven’t had a problem since (fingers crossed).

Scones

There are a lot of alternatives to the standard, built-in timers (including voice assistants like Siri and Alexa) and I’ve included a few in this post.  If you think you might be interested in trying some of these out, contact your local Disability Network and ask for an AT (Assistive Technology) demonstration.  You’ll get to use various kinds of timers and see if they are a good fit/learn about other options.

Screen capture of the Easy UP/down Timers appiTunes App: Easy Up/Down Timer

Timer with number buttons and screen Taylor 10 Key Style Timer

Alarmed app logo iTunes App Alarmed

Pocket Talking Timer and ClockPocket Talking Timer and Clock

Time Tracker Visual ClockTime Tracker Visual Timer & Clock

Time Timer clock screen iTunes App: Time Timer

Round kitchen timer (not digital)Large Print timer

Happy cooking & baking!  Stay tuned for Part 3 of this series, Tasty Tools: Assistive Technology in the Kitchen!  Here’s Part 1 if you missed it.

Tasty Tools: Assistive Technology in the Kitchen (Part 1)

 

OXO angled measuring cup.By Jen Gosett, BS, CTRS, MATP Staff

Bowl with cherry pits and OXO cherry pitter.

If you come into my kitchen and look on the counter tops, open the dishwasher, and peek in the drawers & cabinets, you’ll find a common theme: most of my utensils & kitchen tools are the OXO brand.  From the pizza cutter to the salad spinner, whisk to mixing bowl, and ice cream scoop to prep knives, cherry pitter  to angled measuring cup, it’s mostly OXO.  Why?  OXO tools are easier for me to grip and hold than other brands out there; they make up a large number of the Assistive Technology that I use in the kitchen (stay tuned for Part 2 of this post where I’ll go into other AT I use in the kitchen).

Hand on top of an OXO salad spinner. Lettuce is in the background.I have Eczema and for me that means I usually have very dry skin; particularly on my hands.  Because of my Eczema, I have very little grip on slippery things like typical metal spatulas, can openers, and pizza cutters.  Oxo tools usually have grippy, weighted handles that fit in my hand and don’t slip out of my grip.  Even on the salad spinner, the button to push to “spin” the salad is larger than on other spinners and is coated in that grippy, OXO coating and the bottom of the bowl is weighted and grippy so it won’t tip over.

OXO intentionally has built their products to be used by as many people as possible.  “OXO was founded on the philosophy of Universal Design, which means the design of products usable by as many people as possible.  More than 25 years ago, Sam Farber noticed his wife Betsey was having trouble comfortably holding her peeler due to arthritis. This got Sam thinking: why do ordinary kitchen tools hurt your hands? Why can’t there be wonderfully comfortable, easy-to-use tools?  Sam saw an opportunity to create more thoughtful cooking tools that would benefit all users and promised Betsey that he would create a better peeler.”Collection of various prototypes of potato peelers.“In 1990, after extensive research, hundreds of models and dozens of design iterations, the first 15 OXO Good Grips kitchen tools, including the now iconic peeler, were introduced to the US market. These ergonomically-designed, transgenerational tools set a new standard for the industry and raised the bar of consumer expectation and performance.” (from the OXO site).  

Do you use OXO tools?  What’s your favorite?

OXO kitchen tools may be available for free demonstration and/or short term loan through your local Disability Network.  Search by county to find your local Disability Network and ask them about an Assistive Technology (AT) OXO kitchen tools demonstration.

See you for Part 2, thanks for reading! 🙂

 

Google Drive for Students!

Text "google" with hearts

By Jen Gosett, BS, CTRS, MATP Staff

In my last blog post, Google Calendar for Students!, I mentioned that one of my first professional roles after I graduated from Eastern Michigan University (EMU) was supporting young adults who had disabilities and were transitioning out of high school to whatever came next for them.  I shared about the necessity of creating and using a schedule and talked about how Google Calendar was a great tool for students with various support needs.  Today I’m writing about my experiences using Google Drive to support students with various needs; specifically those related to organization, cognition, communication/social interactions, memory, and planning.  “Google Drive is a free service from Google that gives you access to free web based applications for creating and sharing documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and more. Because files can be accessed from any computer with an Internet connection, Drive eliminates the need to email or save a file to a USB drive. And because Drive allows you to share files, working with others becomes much easier.” From All about Google Drive.  

Students using Google Chromebooks to access Google Drive

Students use Google Drive to

  • Collaborate on group projects
    • Students can begin a presentation (Google’s version of PowerPoint is very similar), share it with their classmates, and give them access to edit and add to it. The creator of the presentation/document does not need to be online for their classmates to access it; it’s stored in the cloud and can be accessed anytime via wifi/mobile data.
    • For someone who may have support needs related to communication/social interactions, group work may be really challenging.  In a group setting, he or she may have a difficult time understanding why or how their part of the assignment may have been changed by a group member.  Using the “See Revision History” feature, students are empowered to understand when something has been changed and by whom.  Then, using the built in chat feature, students can follow up with their group members about changes.
  • Access work all in one place
    • Abraham Lincoln graphicAnything created in Drive is stored in the Drive account (connected to the student’s Gmail account). Work won’t be lost if a computer dies or a new/different device is used. Drive auto saves everything that was created using Drive via connection with the internet.
    • For students who have support needs that center around organization, this feature is especially useful.  They don’t need to keep track of multiple emails being sent back and forth with the most recent revision because it’s already auto saved in Drive.
    • Also, for students who need supports geared around memory, if she or he forgets what they named a document, they can search in Drive using a keyword to find their work (for example, “Lincoln” could be used to find their report on American presidents).
  • Share work with their teacher during the process
    • For students who have needs centered around general cognition, knowing if they are completing an assignment in the way the teacher envisioned might be a challenge.  Keeping the teacher in the loop from the beginning of the project can be very helpful.  Depending on the teacher, students can get helpful feedback/guidance from their teacher before they officially “turn it in” by inviting them to the project created on Google Drive.  Teachers can then comment/make changes/etc. in real time to support their students.
  • Get support remotely
    • Laptop computer with hand raisedSometimes the supports a student needs can’t always in-person.  When a student invites their Personal Assistant, parent, etc. to their document/presentation/etc., that designated support person can view, double check it, etc. remotely from their own computer or mobile device. This feature can be changed/people can be uninvited whenever needed (for when there is a staffing change for example). Access to “view only” can also be given when limiting access is needed/chosen.

Do you use Google Drive?  How has it been helpful to you? Share in a comment 🙂

Google Calendar for Students!

By Jen Gosett, BS, CTRS, MATP Staff

One of my first professional roles after I graduated from Eastern Michigan University (EMU) was supporting young adults who had disabilities and were transitioning out of high school to whatever comes next.  At the time, I was only a few years older than the people I met with and I think it was as much of a learning experience for them as it was for me.  We focused on completing daily life tasks (meal prep, laundry, shopping, bill paying, etc.), finding housing options, researching job postings & prepping for interviews, learning to use public transportation, pursuing continuing education, and meeting & connecting with other young adults in our shared community.  Graphic of a calendarIn order to work on the areas mentioned, a scheduling system or calendar was essential.  Many of the young adults that I worked with had never used a calendar/been responsible for planning their day/week/month before we started working together.

When I think back to my own high school transition (summer & fall of 2003), I remember that I didn’t use a calendar before my freshman year of college and it was a little difficult getting used to it.  In 2003, electronic calendars may have existed, but they were not well used by me or my peers.  To put this period of time into perspective: laptops were still very new & expensive and I only knew perhaps 1 or 2 people who had them (many of us had non portable, desktop computers or just went to the library on campus when we wanted to get online/type up homework).  And at the time, there were no smart phones!  My first calendar/planner was the one EMU handed out at student orientation; spiral bound with a small space for each day to write my appointments in.  Hands writing in a paper calendarDo you remember your first planner/calendar?  Comment what it was in the comments section of this post! 🙂  Flash forward to 2017 and I can’t imagine having to go back to the paper planner system.  I know some people are still very attached to their paper planners (much respect), but I am a convert and an epic fan of Google Calendar!

“Google Calendar is a powerful, free service you can use to organize your schedule and coordinate events with others. It has many useful features, including the ability to share calendars with others and easily switch what is currently being displayed. You can access your calendar from any computer or mobile device as long as you are signed in to your Google account.” Learn more info from Google Calendar Tips.

Google Calendar

Google Calendar became an integrated Assistive Technology support for (some of) the young adults I worked with once they and their support networks leaned how to use it.  From my experiences, Google Calendar is fairly intuitive; use the link listed in the paragraph above to access a free, online tutorial of how to get started with Google Calendar.

Students can use Google Calendar to:

Hand holding a phone with Google Calendar open on it

  • Input their class schedule: Google Calendar can be accessed on both smart devices and desk/laptop computers. If a student uses the app on their smart phone, they have access to their schedule whenever they have their phone on them.  Details such as directions to which building & room the class is located in can also be added.
  • Create reoccurring appointments: Students can create a daily/weekly schedule once and it will appear in their calendar each week.
  • Schedule additional appointments for: Study time, time after class to review notes, time to meet with a tutor/Personal Assistant, etc. Sometimes having their built in time/visual reminder can be helpful instead of having to “just remember”.

Group of people

  • Find a time for groups to meet to work on projects: The “Find a Time” feature allows you to compare schedules of guests, whether you are scheduling a meeting or inviting friends to lunch, to pick a time that is free for everyone. Learn more about the Find a Time feature.
  • Get scheduling support remotely: When a student invites their Personal Assistant, parent, etc. to their calendar, that designated support person can help schedule appointments, review schedules, double check, etc. remotely from their own computer or mobile device. This feature can be changed/people can be uninvited from calendars whenever needed (for when there is a staffing change for example).

Do you use Google Calendar?  What are your favorite features? Comment below!

If you liked this post, check out my next, Google Drive for Students!

 

 

 

Book Scents and E-Reader Sense (Part 2)

Drawing of an e-reader and an open book. Text states, "there are two kinds of people: e-readers and people who need to be able to smell printed pages."

By Jen Gosett, BS, CTRS, MATP Staff

Have you ever tried to read something (book, flyer, art print, etc.), but found the font or script was difficult to make out? Sometimes efforts to market in unique and eye-catching ways can obscure the original message.

After a recent update on my Kindle Paperwhite e-reader, I noticed something new: I had the option to choose to read my e-books with the entire font of the book changed to “OpenDyslexic”.
E-reader displaying a menu used to change the font of an e-book

Upon first glance, this font reminded me of the groovy 1970’s era.  After a little research, I learned why OpenDyslexic looked so much different from other fonts.  “OpenDyslexic is created to help with some of the symptoms of dyslexia. Letters have heavy weighted bottoms to indicate direction. Letters in the Open Dyslexic fontYou are able to quickly figure out which part of the letter is down which aids in recognizing the correct letter, and sometimes helps to keep your brain from rotating them around. Consistently weighted bottoms can also help reinforce the line of text. The unique shapes of each letter can help prevent confusion through flipping and swapping.  OpenDyslexic also has other features, like wider letter spacing and a unique italic style.”

In doing a little more research, I found that OpenDyslexic is not the only font out there created to specific support those with Dyslexia.  “The Lexie Readable font was designed with accessibility and legibility in mind.  Features like the non-symmetrical b and d, and the handwritten forms of a and g may help dyslexic readers.”  And Sylexiad fonts are “a collection of researched fonts for adult dyslexic readers.  Developed by Dr. Robert Hillier, a Senior Lecturer at Norwich University of the Arts. The research involved the design and testing of a new font family developed and informed from a dyslexic perspective against other fonts recommended by dyslexia organizations. For the majority of those adult dyslexic readers tested, the evidence indicated a clear preference for the Sylexiad fonts.”
Text "Sylexiad, a collection of researched fonts for adult dyslexic readers"

You may now be thinking, ‘interesting, but do these fonts really help?’ Emoji thinking face The answer, like many things in life, is debatable.  I shared my topic for this post with a fellow MDRC AT team member and she forwarded me an article that stated, “there is no evidence that dyslexia fonts help people with dyslexia to read faster and more accurately.”  The fonts mentioned in this blog post “supposedly make it easier for people with dyslexia to recognize the differences between letters. The fonts can be downloaded and used for free. But keep in mind that more rigorous research still needs to be done to find out whether these fonts really help with reading.  Specifically, these fonts still need to be studied using what researchers call controlled, randomized studies. The studies also need to be published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. ‘Peer-reviewed’ means that the work has been examined and deemed worthy of publishing by independent experts in the field.”

Gavel and a stack of booksNow for my own, personal verdict: As I mentioned in Part 1 of this blog post, I believe I have dyslexia (though I have not been tested for it).  I tried out the OpenDyslexic font on my Paperwhite for a few days to see if I could tell a difference.  After the novelty of the new font wore off, I felt that I was more distracted by the groovy-looking letters and ended up switching back to my original font (Helvetica).  Final thought: I think the fonts mentioned in this post could be helpful to individuals with Dyslexia; it just depends on how the person using it feels.