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Bridges Blog Independent Living Resources Orientation and Mobility Series: Food Four Ways, July 2022

Food Four Ways — Navigating Buffets in School Dining Halls

With time off from school and work, our thoughts turn to food! Join us as we cover all things nonvisual food access in our Food Four Ways series:

  • July 5: Grocery Shopping Methods
  • July 12: Navigating Buffets in School Dining Halls
  • July 19: Getting Food Package Information
  • July 26: Accessible Food Delivery Apps

Today, we will share tips for navigating dining halls and other buffets nonvisually.

Introduction

Blind/low vision college students have told us that one of their biggest challenges when adjusting to college was navigating the school dining hall.

Dining halls are almost always organized as buffets, with the occasional sandwich deli line or salad bar. There are some students who will go through the buffet line and put a bit of each offering on their plate, but we know that this method does not work for everyone. For one thing, you may want to know your specific options just like the students around you. For another, food allergies can make that an unsafe practice.

So, let’s load up our mental plates with some tips and tricks for navigating the dreaded buffet line!

Navigating the Dining Hall

Here are three methods that we recommend for navigating the school dining hall. Note that all of these methods may take some getting used to as you adjust and learn what works best for you.

Asking for Assistance

Whether you ask workers or fellow buffet line goers, the dining hall is never short of individuals whom you can ask for visual information. Some students like to find people and ask as they go, and others like to enter the dining hall and ask right off the bat if the staff can spare a worker to go through the line with them.

Using Aira

Aira can assist you in navigating the lines and describing your food options to you. Feel free to view our previous posts about Aira so you can understand how it works:

Going with Friends

College is a unique time in which you are constantly surrounded by your peers. As a result, students are always coordinating times to get meals together. As you settle into school and meet friends, it is always acceptable to go through the buffet lines together and ask questions about the food options. After all, they are all going through together anyway and commenting with joy or sorrow about the day’s offerings!

Familiarization/Scouting it out

Although buffet options can change, many dining halls will have certain fixtures that you can come to expect will stay in the same spot. Whether you choose to have a dining hall orientation session or learn where things are over time, you will come to know where certain foods are and where to go to find them. Perhaps the sandwich line is always just to the left inside the door, or perhaps the ice cream station is along the back wall.

Contact us

Follow the Bridges Helpdesk Facebook page for more transition tips, and please contact the Free Helpdesk for Maryland Blind/Low Vision Transition Students, Families, and Educators anytime using:

This unique project is being coordinated through The IMAGE Center of Maryland, a center for independent living in Towson, and it is funded by a grant from the Maryland Department of Education Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services.

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