National Braille Press is holding a virtual graduation for blind and visually impaired high school and college seniors on June 4 at 7 p.m. EST on YouTube and Facebook. Anyone can register the student, upload a photo, and provide mailing information so NBP can send the graduate a gift. Virtual graduation. But hurry, registration ends May 31.
Every celebration must include food…
Anyone who’s worked with people who are blind, has likely had some great experiences observing both professional (the only employee never to cut themselves on a commercial slicer) and home cooks who are blind – and partaking of the results. The best coconut cake EVER is a standout memory. Teaching cooking skills remotely can be a real challenge, so a little research turned up some interesting tidbits.
Googling “Blind Kids Cooking” brought up pages and pages of information. This first one was the cheesiest, and the casual approach to cooking on an electric stove might give pause, but for a blind skateboarder, risk-taking is just an everyday activity. Two videos follow, one on cooking with Brett Devloo, aka “The Blind Kid”, who became blind at 17, and the other with Brett in his early 20’s showing young man who has definitely worked on his “brand”. Here and here.
Cooking Without Looking is a new venture from the College Transition Academy through the Utah School for the Deaf and Blind, now meeting virtually via Zoom. For their final project, the students are testing meal delivery kits for a month. Their narratives go beyond critiques of the kits themselves to
how to use the apps successfully – “Dinnerly is all virtual- the recipe cards can be accessed via their website as well as through their app”;
what cooking tasks are easy or difficult – “I had a hard time making sure that the meatloaves were equal in size and making sure the meatloaves were done.”,
cooking tips and tricks – “I reached out with [my spatula] to find where the edge of the grill was and found a marker on the grill itself to help me keep track of where my patty would be.”
dealing with fears around cooking – “I learned I shouldn’t be afraid to get burned or hurt, because it’s probably going to happen sometime”.
Their reports were informative, but even better, they were entertaining. Watch for the publication of their cookbook, too. The school is closed for now, but access the complete Week 1 report here.
In 2007 in South Florida, a PBS channel, WXEL, aired a different Cooking without Looking, a cooking show featuring cooks who are blind. In one episode, a recipe for Artichoke Mushroom Pizza was described so well that any cook could make it. Hint: touch was very important in the creation of this pizza, and the final product looked great. We’re just not sure whether a pizza topping made with mayonnaise would have wide appeal. Video is here.
Three sisters are the seventh generation in their family to run Marcoot Jersey Creamery in Greenville, Illinois. They’ve put together some free resources to show appreciation for teachers – a virtual tour of the farm, kid cooking tutorials including veggie pizza made with their dairy made Quark cheese, and more activities. Must be a teacher to sign up.
The Bearsville Theater, outside Woodstock, NY, is streaming archived performances in its Bearsville Uncut series at 8 p.m. on Saturdays via its YouTube channel or on Facebook. This Saturday’s performance is from ANSEL MEDITATION, “a fundamental figure in the foundation of reggae music and Roots Rock Reggae legend.” Register at and you’ll be notified when the show is on.
Whether it’s the Black Eyed Peas or country music or any other genre, you’ll likely find a link to music by blind musicians at this website.
Music lessons and preparing for a career in the arts
The Fil!, an RDPFS partner, has announced its roster of July classes, now available nationwide thanks to their new remote instruction capabilities. Both group and individual classes are available in subjects like The Magical World of Musical Theater, Learning Braille Music Code and Preparing a Monologue. There’s a special eight-session workshop on Career Building for Youth in the Arts. For more information on class dates and tuition go here.
On May 11, Helen Keller International held its annual gala virtually. Celebrity chef Jose Andres received the Spirit of Helen Keller Humanitarian Award and Carla Hall, of Top Chef and The Chew, cooked Vietnamese lettuce wraps. Video recording of the event and the recipe is at this website.
National Braille Press has been holding Braille ‘n Brew fundraisers. On June 5, they’re moving the third installment online with the help of Remnant Brewing. Enjoy a tasting of four mystery beers. Purchase a ticket and you not only get access to the Zoom tasting room but you’ll be able to use either contactless pickup at Remnant or home delivery if you live in one of 10 nearby towns.
For the bookish
Although physically closed like most other libraries for the blind due to COVID-19, the Andrew Heiskell library in New York City is offering occasional free online events. On Tuesday, June 9 at 4 p.m., the staff will host an Open Book Hour where book lovers can share news about any and all books they’ve been reading. Register here.
The Xavier Society offers free reading materials in a spiritual vein. New audio acquisitions include Beautiful Hope: Finding Hope Every Day in a Broken World by Pope Francis et al. Among new Braille volumes is God’s Wild Flowers: Saints with Disabilities by Pia Matthews (B1770, 5 volumes). Check it out here.
Audio Bibles for the Blind has several standard bible versions in a wide variety of audible formats, and in a wide range of languages, including Farsi, Mandarin, Haitian Creole. There are also select readings and a children’s bible. Many of their products are free.
Financial Assistance for Individuals
The Modest Needs Foundation offers small grants of $750-$1,250 to low-income families living paycheck-to-paycheck in USA and Canada. Grants can be for an emergency expense or for a regular expense such as rent that the family cannot afford due to an extenuating circumstance. All requirements and FAQ’s can be found here.
The Hebrew Free Loan Society offers no-interest loans to individuals in New York City, Westchester and Long Island for a number of purposes including vocational training and COVID-19 relief. Income limits by household size are defined by type of loan. A guarantor is required for all loans. Complete details can be found here.