Veronica With Four Eyes

Baking Banana Bread With Assistive Technology

While I have had a strong love for assistive technology for many years now, my love for banana bread is much more recent. I thought of banana bread just like I had thought of blindness canes and screen magnification software in years past- I thought it was all done the same way, that it was difficult to adapt to suit my own preferences, and that I would get burnt (or burnt out) trying to find one that worked for me. However, just like I learned to love using my blindness cane to navigate outside and became more familiar with how to learn to use a screen magnifier without triggering vertigo, banana bread has quickly become one of my favorite treats to make for breakfast, especially when I have assistive technology to help me bake it. Here are my tips for baking banana bread with assistive technology, which also shows various examples of how assistive technology tools can be used in the kitchen.

First, my favorite recipes for banana bread

While I know that everyone has their own preferences for banana bread, here are two of my favorite banana bread recipes. The first one is my personal recipe “Banana Bread for Everyone”, which can be adapted for various food allergies and preferences. The second recipe from The Simple Parent has only three ingredients, with one of them being cake mix. If making the second recipe, I recommend experimenting with different flavors of cake mix- my friends and I really loved making it with strawberry cake mix!

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Reading online recipes with simplified displays

One of the most frustrating experiences for me when I visit a recipe blog is having to deal with an abundance of pop-ups or advertisements that make it difficult for me to read the actual recipe. Whenever I find a recipe I want to try, I typically will use a simplified reading tool to be able to get the text from the page and read it in large print, such as Microsoft Immersive Reader, Reading View on iOS,  or the Pocket app. This is a better option for me than zooming in on a page, as I typically don’t need to see the other visual elements on a page when I’m making a recipe, just the text.

Another way to make recipes easier to read is to click the “print recipe” button that is built-in to many recipe blogs, as it displays a printer-friendly page with well-formatted text and no other distracting elements. I linked to the printer-friendly views for both recipes in the previous section to show what this looks like, as these views are much better for screen reader users.

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Reading printed recipes with OCR or adapted materials

Recipes that are written down or that are printed out from a long time ago can still be read by people with vision loss using OCR tools which can recognize handwriting or typed text and display it in an accessible format- I have an entire post about options for reading handwriting with assistive technology linked below. For people who have a beloved recipe from a cookbook, I highly recommend checking Bookshare to see if the cookbook is available on their platform, as they would be able to read the recipe in their choice of accessible format.

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Once a recipe is chosen, use a visual interpreter to gather ingredients

Every great banana recipe starts with bananas that are brown and mushy to the touch. While users can often figure out whether a banana is ripe enough by touch alone, this can also be a great opportunity to use a color reader or visual interpreting application to determine what the color of the banana is. Users can either point their device camera at the banana and have an app like Seeing AI or Be My Eyes say what the color is, or they can take a picture and use the Seeing AI image recognition feature or an app like BeSpecular.

In addition to checking the color of the bananas, users can also take advantage of the other tools built into visual interpreting apps such as the barcode scanner or short text feature to check other ingredients, such as the container for ground cinnamon or the box of cake mix. I recommend getting all of the ingredients out before starting the recipe.

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Preheat the oven with a magnifier or tactile labels

After all of the ingredients are gathered, it’s time to preheat the oven. With our current oven, I typically use my phone as a video magnifier, zooming in to find the numbers and the start button so that I input the temperature correctly. Some of my friends have bump dots or tactile labels on their oven so that it is easier for them to locate the most frequently used options on their oven, but I haven’t done that for ours yet- though we do have measuring cups and measuring spoons that are brightly colored with tactile labels.

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Use high-contrast bowls and measuring tools

One of the most helpful things for me to have when I’m baking is high-contrast bowls and measuring tools that are not the same color as any ingredients I will be working with, as I rely a lot on my usable vision. Measuring white salt in a white teaspoon measurement can be difficult as it is harder for me to see whether the teaspoon is full or not, and I might not notice that there is banana bread batter on the sides of a bowl if the bowl is a similar color. This is also helpful for cleaning afterward, as I am more likely to notice residue.

Whenever possible, I try to avoid using white or light-colored tools when baking because it is much more difficult for me to see light-colored ingredients, and also because having bolder colors allows me to better look at the color changes that are taking place within the batter. Besides looking at the color changes, I can also use clean hands to determine if there are any remaining streaks of flour or unexpected textures.

Scoop batter into prepared pan with a spill guard

Once the batter is mixed, it’s time to put the banana bread batter into the prepared loaf pan. For recipes that call for parchment paper, I recommend double-checking the label with a visual assistant to ensure that a box actually contains parchment paper and not wax paper, as these are two different things. Instead of pouring batter from the bowl directly into the pan, I prefer to use a measuring cup and spatula to put the batter in the pan, using a spill guard or several paper towels underneath the pan to make sure I don’t get batter everywhere. Before the banana bread goes in the oven, I use a spatula on the top to even out the batter.

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Set a timer and check when it is finished

I prefer to use a voice assistant like the Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri to set a timer when I am putting banana bread in the oven, or when I am cooking food in general. It’s much easier for me to check the time remaining, and I don’t have to worry about setting the wrong time on my phone. Once the timer goes off, I check whether the bread is done or not by putting a toothpick in the center and feel if it is wet or not- if it’s dry, it means that the bread will be ready to eat and can be cut into slices once it is no longer burning hot.

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Take a picture of the final product

Once the banana bread is ready to eat, I frequently will take a picture of the finished loaf or slices to send to my friends, adding alt text for friends that have trouble seeing images. I have an entire post about how to write alt text and image descriptions for food linked below so that people can not only make their banana bread with assistive technology, they can share their banana bread images with assistive technology users as well!

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Summary of baking banana bread with assistive technology

  • When reading recipes online, simplified reading tools like Microsoft Immersive Reader, iOS Reading View, and Pocket will display the text of a webpage in large print so that it is easier to read the recipe
  • Another option is to click the “print recipe” button as it displays a printer-friendly page with well-formatted text and no other distracting elements
  • Printed recipes can be read with OCR tools or by using cookbooks in accessible formats
  • Visual interpreting apps can be used to identify ingredients, scan barcodes, and read text labels
  • To make buttons on the oven easier to read, zoom in on numbers with a phone or use tactile labels
  • High-contrast baking tools make it easier to see ingredients, as colors do not blend into light-colored items
  • Using a spill guard or several paper towels can help users avoid spills when pouring ingredients
  • Voice assistants like Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri can set timers that users can easily monitor
  • When posting pictures online, alt text should be added so that people can know what is in an image

Baking Banana Bread With Assistive Technology. My favorite recipes and tips for baking banana bread with assistive technology tools for low vision and blind users, for National Banana Bread Day