Vision Norfolk Bake off winner Paige Simonds (left) and judge Karen Norton

Blind Novice Baker Carries Off Bake Off Prize

A Norwich woman who has been blind since the age of six has carried off the inaugural ‘Norfolk Vision Impaired Bake Off’ prize just six months after she first picked up a spatula.

Paige Simonds won the prize for a ‘stunning’ Bakewell Tart in the competition, which was the culmination of a cooking course designed to help those living with sight loss live independently.

A dozen people with varying degrees of vision impairment have been learning to cook using a range of specialised gadgets such as talking scales and talking air fryers, as part of Vision Norfolk’s life skills programme for those living with sight loss.

The group has produced a variety of dishes including curries, pasta dishes, pizzas, cakes and bread during the lessons, which take place at the charity’s Bradbury Activity Centre in Norwich.  The lessons have been taught by community outreach worker Sue Warnes

“The cookery course is all about giving people living with sight loss the confidence to live independently,” said Ms Warnes.  “We introduce a range of special gadgets to help vision impaired people in the kitchen, and focussing on dishes which people can easily recreate in their own home.

“Being able to create meals for yourself is a key skill in maintaining independence, and we plan to offer more cookery classes for people living with sight loss in the coming weeks and months.”

The Bake Off  competition was run to enable participants to showcase their newly-acquired skills, with a variety of savoury and sweet bakes judged by Vision Norfolk chair Karen Norton, who is herself vision impaired.

“I have been blown away by the quality of the cooking on show here, especially as some of the people taking part had never cooked before embarking on the course.”

Winner Paige Simonds was one of those who had never picked up a spatula before the course.  She moved into the charity’s Hammond Court supported living accommodation in January and realised she needed to learn to cook for herself.

“I had never cooked before, so starting to live independently was daunting for me,” said Ms Simonds.  “The cookery classes have really given me confidence, and I now enjoy cooking in my flat.

“Being able to live independently has transformed my life, and I now want to volunteer for Vision Norfolk and teach others living with sight loss to cook.”

Vision Norfolk’s Community Outreach Team runs cookery classes for people living with sight loss at its Norwich, Great Yarmouth and King’s Lynn hubs.

In addition the team provides one-to-one emotional and practical support in the home to help anyone with a vision impairment maintain an independent lifestyle, helping people understand the impact of vision impairment, offering advice and assistance on welfare and housing benefit applications, advising on the most appropriate low vision equipment and adaptions for the home, identifying additional support needs if necessary, and signposting to a range of other relevant services in the community

For more information about Vision Norfolk’s cookery classes visit www.visionnorfolk.org.uk/cooking; for more information about the charity’s Community Outreach Team visit www.visionnorfolk.org.uk/community-outreach-workers.

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