How would you design a spice rack for a blind person?

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 26 October, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 October, 2011, 12:00am


Jay Lee Seung-jae, 13, Hong Kong International School

In my opinion, the most important human sense after sight is the sense of smell. The special characteristic of spices is the exquisite scent of each individual spice. So the one way blind people would be able to distinguish one spice from another is by smell.

These days, in American supermarkets, they have special gadgets that emit a strong aroma of a certain type of food. The bakery section would have the smell of baking bread, and so on. This is an admirable idea and should be used for blind people to find a spice on the spice rack. We should put special perfumes on the jars of spices, each with their special smell. People would be able to distinguish the spice by lifting up the jar and giving it a sniff. This is the best way for blind people to use a spice rack.

Gabrielle Ho, 14, St Stephen's Girls' College

I have four ideas. First, put Braille labels on the containers. Also, different sizes of containers for the spices could make it simpler for a blind person to recognise them.

Second, although it might be costly, electronic containers could be installed into the rack. A person could press a button and it would say the name of the spice.

Third, I would add a scratch and sniff label. Since many blind people rely on their sense of smell, this could let them find the spice by its scent. I would keep the number of spices to a minimum. Some spices that are not commonly used would not be included as it may cause confusion and waste space.

Fourth, I would hang the rack within 30cm of the stove. However, if I could choose, I would not design a spice rack for a blind person, as I think it is dangerous for a blind person to cook.

Kirsten Leung Lok-yin, 12, Heep Yunn School

'Easy to use' are three words I kept in mind when I was designing a spice rack for blind people.

Firstly, the spice rack should be attached on the wall of the kitchen, somewhere beside the fridge. To get something from the rack, just shout for it. For example, shout 'pepper!' after going into the kitchen. The rack will hear your voice and choose the right spice for you. (Its accuracy is very high, so it will not give you the wrong thing). The bottle of pepper will move forward from the rack, so a blind person can get it more easily.

There is another special function of this rack. It will give out a 'beep' sound if there is too little pepper. Then, after you have refilled the bottle and reached the maximum level, the rack will make a 'beep' sound again to tell you to stop. This spice rack is really easy to use and suitable for blind people.

Matthew Murchie, 17, Imperial College London

The challenge is to find a way to label the bottles of spice without using visual cues. Naturally, that leaves one's sense of hearing or sense of touch.

My first thought was to use buttons and a loudspeaker, so that whenever a bottle is picked up, a computer-generated voice would read out the name of the spice. However, having a mechanical voice speak each time is tiresome, which is why I decided on using a blind person's sense of touch.

In my system, I don't use Braille, as it requires a very sensitive sense of touch. Instead, each bottle of spice is assigned a texture. The bottle of rosemary could be labelled with a wooden chip, the parsley with a metal plate, the basil with a rough plastic strip and so on. One can easily feel and quickly tell apart different types of textures, and hence, easily find the right bottle of spice!