Loading the Dishwasher

By Courtney Tabor-... on Oct 04, 2016

A key component of independent living skills is the ability to work in the kitchen and to clean up after a meal. Being able to wash dishes is an important skill, whether an individual plans to live alone or in a group setting. For students with vision impairments, learning to load a dishwasher is one component of washing dishes that can be easily learned with some instruction. This is a task that does not require significant visual skills to complete, so few modifications will need to be made in order to make the task accessible. This is a task that can help build independence and can help prepare students for transitions to adult life. Learning to use a dishwasher can also be an important transferrable skill for entry-level employment opportunities in food service settings. Families who have a dishwasher in their home can easily work on this skill with a child with a vision impairment, and this can be a valuable way that she or he can contribute to responsibilities of the family while also learning key transition skills.


  • dishwasher
  • dishwasher detergent tablets
  • braille, large print, or tactile labels if needed
  • various dishware, silverware, cups, plus other kitchen items that should not go in the dishwasher


  1. If needed, instructor or family member labels necessary buttons on the dishwasher
  2. Student explores the various racks and compartments of the dishwasher, being instructed on which areas are best suited for cups, silverware, etc.
  3. Discuss what kinds of items should or should not be loaded into the dishwasher.
  4. Student is given various kitchen items to either load into the dishwasher or set aside for hand-washing. Student rinses appropriate items and puts them in the designated sections of the dishwasher.
  5. Student locates the soap compartment, adds soap, then locates the power button to run the dishwasher.


  • This can be made into a 2-person activity in which one student determines which items can go in the dishwasher and rinses, while the other student loads items. This is a way to add a social skills component to this activity.
  • This activity can be adapted based on a student’s particular strengths and needs. Instructors can add or remove complexity to meet a student’s capabilities. This activity can be an opportunity to work on skills such as sorting items, identifying various materials (glass, plastic), learning about safe handling of glassware or sharp items, or labeling appliances for accessibility.
  • To conduct this activity in a school setting, instructors and/or students can speak with cafeteria staff to arrange for practice or volunteer opportunities


Pinterest collage of loading the dishwasher

Total Life Learning by Wendy Bridgeo,‎ Beth Caruso,‎ & Mary Zatta

Cover of Total Life Learning

The Total Life Learning curriculum was developed for students ages 3 to 22 who are blind, visually impaired including those students who have additional disabilities or are deafblind. The focus is on the development of life and career goals that enable student to maximize independence, self-determination, employability, and participation in the community.