Appliances are a Challenge

by Donna J. Jodhan

There used to be a time when I, as a blind person, was able to navigate the buttons on the panels of my appliances without having to ask for sighted assistance. Buttons and knobs on washers and dryers were big enough for me to feel and touch, you could set levels of water and temperatures by counting off the clicks, and you could do other things by simply memorizing how many clicks to the left or right, etc.

A few months ago, I had to replace my washer and dryer and thank goodness I was able to find a small appliance store that sold washers and dryers with manageable buttons. Many of the appliances today are dominated by touch screens and digital displays and this makes life more difficult for someone who is unable to see. Some appliances even have lights to indicate certain things and this too is not very good for a blind person.

In the good old days, I only had to ask for sighted assistance once when I was learning the position of the buttons but all this has changed. I know, we are now in the digital age and that can't be helped but how I wish that someone can come along and develop a gadget for blind persons to use with digital displays and touch screens. Thank goodness I have a talking microwave but my toaster oven is a challenge for me.

I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day. If you'd like to learn more about me, then you can visit some of my blog spots at:
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Weekly Saturday postings on issues of accessibility:
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NFB's Accessible Home Product List

From the website:

In our effort to keep up-to-date with current technology we are always adding to and changing the list of usable consumer electronics. We say “usable” because we do not know of any modern household appliances that are completely accessible. The clock and timer settings on all of the appliances we observed require visual assistance to set and use reliably. To assist in identifying major buttons and functions, it would be a good idea to label many of the panels either in Braille or with some other marking. We found some appliances more accessible than others. Dishwashers had the most touch pads and were generally the least accessible line of appliances we viewed. Many of the ovens have buttons labeled “Clear/Off” or “Start/Off” that when pressed to turn the oven off will always clear previous settings so that every time you turn the oven on, it starts at the same temperature, often 350 degrees, as noted in many of the descriptions. This means that if the multiple layers of functions get confusing, the cook can just turn the oven off, then back on to start over at a known temperature and try again. In some instances, you may have to memorize the sequences for buttons with multiple selections in order to cycle through the choices and know where you are. We hope you find these product descriptions useful. As you shop you will find other models with similar controls so you can choose the model that suits your needs.

We selected some lower-priced and higher-priced models in each category.  The model numbers listed are the manufacturers’ model numbers.  Stores often add their own model numbers so be sure to ask your sales representative to look for the manufacturers’ model number.  We do not include prices as they vary from region to region and from time to time. 

The higher end models of appliances contain more features and have more buttons and menus.  The less expensive models often are the most accessible.  In most cases, with adaptations, blind and low vision homemakers can find ways to use any of these appliances.

Click this link to view the NFB's Accessible Home Product List.


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