Cooking an omelette in seven minutes is easy for most people. But try doing it with your eyes closed. Not so easy now, is it?
Payal Kapoor, popular host of the YouTube channel Rasoi ke Rahasya, is trying to teach people with visual disabilities to cook via her podcasts and YouTube tutorials. “Cooking without looking,” is her motto.
Kapoor, who is completely blind, recently won the NCPEDP-Mphasis Universal Design Awards 2021 for creating an impact in accessibility and universal design, reported The Indulge Express. The award recognizes individuals and organisations who work to improve the lives of people with disabilities.
A resident of Ameerpet in Hyderabad, Kapoor went from an inspiring chef about to graduate school and join a hotel to walking on the road with a white cane.
“I had an undiagnosed case of viral meningitis and it has left me completely blind and partially deaf for the last 29 years. However, I am unstoppable and I learned to make the best of what I have. Today, I can cook a five-course meal and feed people. Now, I am trying to teach the same to the blind,” said the 52-year-old host.
Kapoor is an accessibility activist who runs workshops for the visually disabled. She said the pandemic and the lockdown caused thousands of blind people to have nowhere to eat.
“They were forced to learn cooking to feed themselves. That’s when I began my YouTube channel, in April 2020,” she said.
Knowing that people with visual disabilities tune into her show, it has been designed like a podcast or an audio tutorial. She teaches basic cooking via the channel and hopes to add more.
According to Kapoor, most people with visual disabilities use assistive technology such as talkback apps on their smartphones to buy their ingredients. For example, some use a barcode-reading device that reads out the names of the ingredients on the store shelf. In some cases, the names of the ingredients are written in Braille. During the cooking process, Kapoor teaches her students to place their hands above the pan at a safe distance to feel the heat.
“I teach them to cook on slow or medium heat as it is safe. I also teach them to use mobile phone timers to understand the number of minutes they need to cook. Of course, they have to be alert with their other sense such as smell and touch to cook well,” she added.
Kapoor runs at least one workshop a week and is completely booked until December.
Her mission right now is to help children understand and include those with disabilities. She also aims to help corporations meet ‘workplace readiness’ guidelines to be inclusive of workers with disabilities.