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What would it be like to attend college with a visual impairment? USI students learned about the unique challenges faced by students who are blind or visually impaired during a summer program on the USI campus with the Evansville Association for the Blind (EAB). “The purpose of the program is to help guide incoming students to campus life before an actual semester begins,” said Elizabeth Ramos, Instructor in Food and Nutrition.

“USI University Division, Academic Skills, Disability Resources, and Housing and Residence Life participated. Food and Nutrition was asked to open the Food Science Lab in the Health Professions Center for cooking classes, so that is how I got involved.” 

Krysti Hughes of the EAB allowed USI students to help facilitate the cooking classes, which offered mutual learning, according to Ramos. “Our students learned about the visually impaired, the need for adaptations and the special utensils and equipment used in food preparation, while the EAB clients learned the kitchen basics, including cutting, chopping foods, range top, oven and Instant Pot use, recipes, planning a menu and grocery shopping,” she said.

Ramos said she was amazed at the EAB clients’ curiosity and willingness to learn about food safety and preparation. “I had to marvel at the fun the students had especially making their own creations with a waffle iron. The CNHP students were involved at every step,” she said. “The joy of watching them eat and savor every bite was heartwarming.”

In addition to two dietetics students, Ramos also had one USI occupational therapy student participate in the volunteer service-learning project. Michaela Jones, a dietetics student who plans to graduate in Spring 2022, volunteered for each of the four cooking classes. She bonded with the EAB students, offering good conversation, menu and cooking suggestions and hands-on assistance.

At the conclusion of the classes, Jones said, “Going into this project, I was excited to work with the students but completely unaware of the impact each of them would have on my life. As I taught them how to cook, they taught me that a disability does not disable you. With a new approach, you can overcome any obstacle. Each day when I left the kitchen, I felt like I had experienced a miracle.”