Future Reflections Winter/Spring 2006

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"Cooking Without Looking"….for Kids

by Jody Hicks

Austin and Hunter Hicks with their mother, Jody Hicks, and father, Ron.Being the mother of blind children has its perks. Picture this: as I prepare to send my latest diet off on vacation, my boys (both blind) are happily mixing up calorie-crammed brownies on the set of WXEL-TV42. We’re in the middle of taping an episode of a TV show called, “Cooking Without Looking.” It is the only episode to feature blind children. The show is undeniably unique. “Cooking Without Looking” is the first show for television that features blind guests and hosts. This particular episode will be shown on PBS stations locally and nationally.

“Cooking Without Looking” airs monthly episodes on local PBS stations in South Florida. The driving force behind the show is Renée Rentmeester, president, Vision World Foundation.

Renée Rentmeester is a powerhouse of energy and enthusiasm, and she pours it all into creating each episode. She hopes to cultivate awareness that the blind enjoy full and productive lives and use various methods to accomplish daily tasks. Up until now, the featured guests have been visually impaired adults sharing their personal recipes and techniques in the kitchen. Then, Renée decided it was time to feature blind children.

Winona BrackettShe named this episode “Kidding Around in the Kitchen.” The featured guests are Austin Hicks (age 13), Hunter Hicks (age 10) and Winona Brackett (age 9). And the episode takes place in more than the kitchen. Included in the children’s episode is pediatric ophthalmologist, Garima Lal, M.D., with advice for parents of blind children. Also on the show are Debby and Bob Brackett, Winona’s parents, who share the experience of adopting their blind daughter from Hong Kong and provide information about the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC), a division of the National Federation of the Blind. (Debby is a national board member of the NOPBC).

The children were treated like movie stars. The set was full of warm praises, laughter, and corny jokes. Austin was thrilled to meet a blind member of the studio audience who is a nuclear aerospace engineer. Between takes they carried on long conversations that frankly sounded like a foreign language to me. Hunter made friends with J. T., the guide dog of Alan Preston, the host of the show. (Of course, he made sure to ask Alan for permission first.) Winona loved meeting so many new people and everyone delighted in meeting her. In fact, I think she has her own fan club now.

The children’s episode had an added bonus. It gave the children a chance to showcase their hard won skills. It let them know that being blind did make them different…in a good way. After all, if they weren’t blind would they be in a TV studio? Would they be included in this one-of-a-kind show that will air nationwide? How many kids do you know that can boast of that? Renée, I assure you, your creation has made a difference in the lives of three blind children who will never forget this experience.

Pack your bags! Another show is on the horizon that Renée calls “Out of Sight.” Visually impaired travelers will share their traveling tips and experiences in our frantic technical world.

For further information about show episodes, contact Vision World Foundation at (888) 290-7005.

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