These days, there are cooking classes designed for just about any specialty or cuisine. But few take into account the needs of people coping with illness or disabilities. The ever-creative Culinary Institute of the online resource eGullet.com has taken on the task. Starting today, the eGCI is posting a three-part course covering: cooking as a person with disabilities (including dietary restrictions); cooking for or with a person with disabilities; and sensory issues, such as nausea and food-related limitations and consequences of taking medication.

"Unless we are forced to, the able-bodied don't consider the needs of those with disabilities," says Andy Lynes, dean of the eGCI. "Cookbook authors may not even be aware that they have disabled readers who might well want to cook their recipes. It is an audience that is simply not being addressed satisfactorily at the moment."

The course's three instructors draw on their own personal and/or professional knowledge, as well their passion about cooking. Classes will consider issues such as safety, balance and coordination, vision impairment, mental retardation, special equipment and more common concerns such as low-sodium, low-fat and cholesterol restrictions. Yet the prevailing attitude is upbeat, can-do and practical.

"Cooking is a liberating experience for all of us who love to do it," says Lynes. "It focuses the mind and body in the moment to the task in hand and away from everyday pressures and hassles. I believe this may be especially true for those living with disabilities."

All the courses taught by the eGCI are free and interactive. To register, go to www.egullet.com, click on "eGCI" and then on "course catalogue." The courses and the ensuing online discussions will remain posted on the eGullet site.

-- Judith Weinraub