Future Reflections Fall 1991

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POURING IN THE DARK

by Connie Weadon

Reprinted from Dialogue, Fall/Winter, 1990.

If you were to ask a newly blind person what is most frustrating to him, he probably would not say mastering Braille or completing mobility. His response more likely would be to name one of the ordinary tasks of daily living which most people perform without a thought. One such task is pouring.

To pour liquids successfully, I recommend three methods:

1. Placing the finger over the edge of the cup or glass and pouring until liquid touches your finger.

2. Judging the fullness of the container by its weight.

3. Listening to note how the sound of the liquid changes as it nears the top of the container.

Most people probably use a combination of these methods or change techniques depending on the situation. I would advise experimenting with the different methods until you find which one is most comfortable for you. All three can be used for pouring hot or cold liquids into a cup or glass.

Pouring liquid from a large container into a smaller one can be tricky. I recommend using a funnel. Place the funnel inside the top of the smaller container, hold the outside edge of it with one hand and pour with the other. Listen to the sound of the liquid as it is poured, and check the weight of the smaller container often, or put your finger inside the rim of the container periodically to see how close to the top you are.

The challenge of pouring liquid flavorings such as vanilla, liquid medicine, or other substances into a measuring spoon or cup is not impossible. One solution is to hold the spoon or cup over a bowl that will catch any amount you might spill. Return the excess to its original container using the funnel. Another solution might be to pour the liquid into a bowl, then dip it out with a measuring spoon or cup. Again the excess can be returned to its original container using a funnel.

To pour the water off pasta, vegetables, or other foods, use a large strainer. Place the strainer in the sink, and use your hands to orient yourself to its exact location. Hold the handle of the pot with one hand, using an oven mitt, grasp the outer edge of the pan opposite the handle, and pour slowly into the strainer. I suggest using large strainers because if you use one that is too small, part of your food may end up in the sink.

When pouring water, soup, wine or other liquids into a casserole dish or pan, locate the outer edge of the dish or pan with one hand, and pour with the other. This way of orienting yourself will keep you from pouring liquid over the edge or onto the stove or counter.

Some blind people feel they must have a liquid level indicator. This small device is simply a nine-volt battery attached to two prongs. Place the prongs over the edge of the cup or glass. When liquid reaches the top, the liquid level indicator will emit a beeping sound. Although these little gadgets make nice conversation pieces, I would hardly consider them a necessary adaptive aid.

An alternative to pouring hot liquids is to use the Hot Shot or Hot Beverage maker. This device is available from companies that sell adaptive aids but also can be found in department or discount stores. The Hot Shot fits easily on a counter top and requires electricity. It holds up to 12 ounces of water, and is useful for making a cup of tea, instant coffee, or soup. Lift the lid off the Hot Shot and pour in the needed amount of water. Place your mug or bowl on the base of the Hot Shot and close the lid. A few inches below the lid are two levers. When you press the one on the left a red light will come on. Water reaches the boiling point very quickly in these devices. Listen for the boiling sound to begin and end. When it ends, the red light will go off and the beverage maker automatically turns itself off. Then press the lever on the right to dispense the water into your cup or bowl.

In this article I have presented some techniques and equipment that might alleviate the task of pouring liquids. Again, I encourage you to use the method that is most comfortable for you. No matter how careful you are, it is inevitable that some spilling will occur. Be prepared with paper towels and sponges, and clean up spills as quickly as possible. Remember that blind people aren't the only ones who spill things.

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