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Sign Language Studies

American Annals of the Deaf

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Deaf-Blind Reality: Living the Life
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I had my oven, stove, microwave, dishwasher, clothes washer and clothes dryer marked in Braille. For some buttons I just learned what they mean, instead of marking them all.

Following my divorce, I moved into a new apartment and have been living alone there. I had to do the Braille labels all over again. My daily routine hasn’t changed much, though, except that my dad helps me a lot with groceries.

I do have to have my morning coffee, so I use a one-cup coffee-maker. I fill the water container by using my liquid-level indicator and have learned what the buttons mean. I measure my coffee (I drink instant, so I only use the machine to make the hot water, but have used ground coffee in it, too) by leveling a spoon with the amount I need. I can feel when the water is heated by the way the machine feels, so I know when to press the button for water. I can then tell by feel when it is done pouring and know how to turn it off.

When I became completely blind, it changed my previous level of independence—temporarily, because I am determined to regain my independence! I am finding it hard to do many things on my own, but I have been able to make certain adaptations in my home that really help me keep some of my independence.

I don’t go anywhere out of the house by myself yet. Mostly, it’s because I am not very social yet, as I am nervous about being completely blind and not understanding speech very well with my cochlear implant. Any time I go to the doctor or need to go to the store, etc., my dad, who lives close by, takes me.

Wendy Williams

As an adult, I have mostly lived alone in apartments with my dog guides. There were a few occasions when my living quarters were boardinghouses and college dormitories that I shared with other students.

While I had residual vision, I needed little in the way of home accommodations, other than adequate lighting. But it became quite the challenge when I began to lose the rest of both my vision and hearing because traditional methods no longer worked for me. I already had had homemaking training while wearing shades at a blind rehab agency about a decade earlier, and these skills were of later benefit in that I had little fear of the stove without sight. Still, I sustained minor burns, but they were learning experiences. For example, when I removed hot dishes from the oven using oven mitts, I burned my arm against the top of the oven, so I switched to elbowlength mitts.

There were a few occasions when I almost tripped over my dog guide while carrying hot food. So she was banished to the kitchen doorway to observe from that vantage point.

Determining when water was at the boiling stage was through feeling the faint vibrations of the bubbles through the pot handles, along with the steam.

Previously, I had placed Braille Dymo tape on my measuring cups and spoons, and these were now a necessity. I then put Braille labels on spices and other food items. I carefully measured (non-oil) liquid ingredients over the sink to prevent excess moisture in my recipes. It is easier to measure some liquid ingredients, like oil, when it is cold. Also, immediately replacing the caps on bottles prevented me from later potential spills, lest I happen to bump into them and knock them over.

I found I had a poor sense of thoroughly mixing the batter with utensils, so I used my clean hands to complete this step. Parchment paper allowed more uniform cooking and minimized food sticking to the pans.

I learned to use the senses of smell, touch, and hearing (with cochlear implants) to tell me when food was cooked. For example, ground beef changed from big, soft clumps to small, firm ones. I used a talking thermometer to ensure other meat (e.g., chicken) was cooked. One problem with this device is I cannot distinguish between the spoken numbers “150-something” and “160-something” with my implant.

I was willing to tackle sensitive recipes, such as stollen (Christmas bread), from scratch, using yeast, beaming with pride over my finished and tasty product. On the weekends, I prepared hot dishes, so I had nutritious lunches at work to give me the energy to get through my days of employment.

As for housecleaning, I discovered initially going over the floors with a sweeper prior to vacuuming picked up any fallen treasures I did not want to disappear into the vacuum. It also helped ensure that unknown soiled messes (e.g., dog poop) did not make their way into the vacuum.

My sense of feel was a big part in determining if sinks or floors were clean, using the grid pattern. I preferred safe cleaning agents in place of potentially harmful ones that could splash into my eyes or burn my hands. I try to keep up with cleaning, as it is easier and quicker to take care of messes, such as the indoor grill, shortly after it cools down.

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