“My chocolate chip cookies are chewy and big. The joke is I make them big so it is easier for me to see them.” These are the words of Dan O’Connor, a 62-year-old blind baker who has been developing tasty gluten free baked goods for Sans Grocery Store in Marin.
How does Dan do it?
“That’s where LightHouse and my rehab counselor Molly Buchanan were a big help,” says Dan. He’s learned tips about lighting and adaptive cooking tools that help him create his cookies and bread.
LightHouse has helped Dan in many other ways outside of the kitchen. He is currently trying to get better at reading braille. He has learned how to use JAWS and Zoomtext. “The support and the help I have received from the LightHouse has been phenomenal.” Dan is proactive by nature. When Ralston (his guide dog) retires he is considering switching to cane travel. He knows that his biggest challenge will be in discriminating different sounds when crossing the street. “I plan to work on my cane skills through the LightHouse. I want to undergo blindfold training to develop better spatial awareness.” said Dan.
Born in New York City, raised in Philadelphia, Dan moved to California in 1980. “I went back to college at San Francisco State and tried to get an undergraduate degree in rehabilitation. I didn’t really know what to do.” Dan had tried everything imaginable from bike and shoe repair to an assistant supervisor at a half-way house for hard of hearing individuals where he learned sign language. One day, while walking to the Student Union, Dan had an epiphany. “I decided I wanted to work with my hands,” he said.
“I tried sculpting and found it wasn’t for me. I tried working at a restaurant where I was willing to mop and clean. One day, the restaurant asked if I knew how to bake bread. I said yes. I had baked in a big kitchen at a school before and wasn’t intimidated to try. They were excited to try me out and it worked.”
One day, Dan found himself walking into Sans Grocery Store in Marin—where a loaf of his cornbread won the friendship of the owner. This turned into an enterprise, and Dan cranks out about 15 dozen cookies a week and 32 to 42 loaves of bread, all gluten free. Local cafes have begun to buy Dan’s bread to serve to their customers.
Are you ready to learn useful adaptive skills in the kitchen or in other areas of your life? If Dan’s story has motivated you to change your life, call Debbie Bacon at 415-694-7357 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up for classes that will truly make a difference.