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For home chefs with disabilities, accessible design is the recipe for success

By: Perkins Access


Watch Brian cook on Chronicle

Brian Charlson of Watertown, Massachusetts, loves to cook. The fact that he’s been blind since the age of eleven hasn’t stopped him from whipping up gourmet meals for his family and friends on a regular basis. His story, and Perkins Access’s work with America’s Test Kitchen, was recently featured on Channel 5 WCVB’s Chronicle.

Brian knows his kitchen and appliances like the back of his hand and can use knives and other cooking implements safely and skillfully.

But there are still barriers to overcome for Brian and other cooking enthusiasts with disabilities. One of those barriers is accessing recipes. In the past, Brian relied on braille versions of popular cookbooks, like The Joy of Cooking. But the choice of accessible books is limited – and when they are available, they tend to be large and bulky. Brian found them awkward to use while cooking, and difficult to keep from getting damaged, given how messy an endeavor cooking can be.

These days, there are more options for Brian and other people with disabilities who love to cook. If you’re a home chef yourself, you probably know that there are literally millions of recipes available online. But in many cases, these recipes live on pages cluttered with ads, videos, long narrative descriptions, and graphic features like lists, boxes, and pop-ups. For people like Brian who use screen readers — assistive technologies that read digital content aloud — these websites can be extremely difficult to navigate. Often, the most important information — ingredient lists, measurements, and step-by-step instructions — is the hardest to find.

Now, some cooking websites are taking steps to make their content more accessible. One of them, America’s Test Kitchen (ATK), recently partnered with Perkins Access to revamp its website. By implementing key coding and design fixes and following best practices for accessible design, ATK was able to reduce barriers and create a better experience for all users.

The refreshed site features straightforward, scannable information architecture and alternative descriptive text (“alt text”) for images that screen readers can easily process. The design is clean and classic, with minimal bells and whistles, and text and background colors are chosen to provide adequate contrast for users who are colorblind or have low vision. Demo videos are created with accessibility in mind, too, with ingredient lists and measurements always spoken aloud, not just shown visually.

The ATK site is a perfect example of how accessible design can make a meaningful difference in the lives of people with disabilities. For Brian Charlson, it means having a whole new trove of easy-to-access, easy-to-follow recipe options.

Learn more about how Perkins Access can help you create digital experiences that reach and engage more people.

Perkins Access
Perkins Access
As part of the world-renowned Perkins School for the Blind, we are committed to making the world more accessible for people of all abilities. And when you partner with Perkins Access, you become a part of that effort.