Monday, March 8, 2010

An Accessible Culinary Breakthrough

A handful of weekends ago I was at a good friend's house for the birthday party of one of his sons. Tacos were on the menu which had me a little bit nervous. I love tacos but they can be a bit of a challenge to eat when you don't have the full use of your fingers. Ergo, there can often be a lot of mess involved while attempting to eat them. Hard shell tacos are much easier for me to handle because I can hold them from both the sides and the bottom, and they stay pretty rigid as I munch away. Soft shell tacos are much trickier at times though because I always seem to wage a two-pronged battle between keeping them wrapped and picking them up without the stuff inside spilling out of the ends. Usually that means making a number of attempts at the proper grip with both hands and maintaining a delicate balance while I bring them up to my mouth.

But even when I'm on my game with either kind of taco there are usually some pretty good chances that some stuff will spill out while I'm eating. Sure that happens to everyone when they eat tacos but the difference is that people with full use of their fingers can readjust their grip on the fly and avoid most spills and drops. They can also hold the taco with one hand while they cup their other hand under their mouth to catch whatever falls. I usually have to use both hands to hold the taco so whatever doesn't make it to my mouth just falls. That also becomes an issue when I sit at tables that are too low to fit my knees under so I can't get close enough to lean forward and eat over my plate. I can't tell you how many times I've left Chipotle after devouring a few deliciously scrumptious tacos with enough barbacoa meat, shredded cheese, and lettuce in my crotch and on the floor to practically have enough left over for another taco.

So all of that was in play at my friend's house with the added quasi-stress that a taco eating mishap could possibly make a mess on someone else's floor and the ensuing embarrassment of doing so in front of a big group of people. But lo and behold, just as I was about to sneak up on some grub myself, I looked out at the dining room table where his three year old son was sitting and noticed that something was attached to the end of his soft shell taco. I asked my friend what it was and he told me that it was a Pampered Chef chip clip. Clipping the chip clip on the end of the taco prevented anything from falling out of one end while he ate from the other (pic below). Pretty fantastic idea. Highly ideal to prevent small children from making a big mess when they eat soft shell tacos, etc. and a pretty great accommodation for an adult quadriplegic like me who has limited use of my hands and fingers.

That also speaks well to the premise that coming up with workable accommodations for people with disabilities, whatever they may be, can often times be very easy and inexpensive. When I was a disability management consultant for a very large Minneapolis based corporation that was a major point of emphasis of the employee disability accommodations "toolkit" that I helped create. About a quarter of all workplace accommodations cost nothing, and two thirds cost less than $500. Sometimes all it takes is some quick adaptive creativity like in this case.

My friend had oodles of similar chip clips so he gave one to me. It might sound funny to some, but the epiphany of this "taco clip" has changed my life in a small, albeit sizeable way. Any accommodation that makes doing previously challenging tasks that much easier is a positive thing in my world. At the very least, this means that soft shell "crotch tacos" should be a thing of the past.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome! I’m hopeful for more of these epiphany/revelation posts! “Everyday Engineering”…can that be a new section?