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Community & Domestic Life: Household Tasks

Elaine Marken using a slate & stylus to create Braille labels for canned foods

Cooking and cleaning are necessary parts of everyday life. Misconceptions about blindness led many people to believe that the blind were unable to cook, clean, or manage a home because they could not see. The fact is, blind people are quite capable of making any meal they wish - limited only by culinary prowess and experience. As with the rest of the population, some blind people are fantastic cooks, while others are not so great. 

Like sighted people, blind people have developed tips, tricks, and techniques to ease the drudgery of household chores. Several articles were published with tips for blind homemakers that explained techniques that, although just as viable and useful, differed from those written for the sighted. The alternative methods explained in these articles are not exceptional or amazing, they are simply different from the sighted approach. The people that developed the techniques were average blind individuals who wanted to make household chores simple and efficient. All of these women relied on their senses of touch, smell, hearing, and taste to determine whether a cake was ready to serve, a floor clean, or a chicken fully cooked.

Here are some of the articles published to highlight some of the techniques used by blind homemakers to do housework:
Braille Labels, Recipes and a Sensitive Nose Guide Blind Housewife in Cooking (1953)
Where the Blind Beat Their Handicap (1961)
Hints for Blind Housewife (1967)
How the Blind Learn the Art of Cooking (1971)

To find out more the public's views on the blind and their abilities, explore the Public Perceptions page. More resources are available in the Iowa Blind History archives, such as “VHS Home EC #7 - Techniques for the blind student”.

Blind Iowans Talk about Their Experiences as Homemakers:

Debra Martin
Pat Hamling

Full narrations and transcripts can be found on the Oral History page.

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