Channel News Asia
27th Sept 2018
Young designer invents kitchenware for the blind, but struggles to bring it to market
From a knife with a safety guard to a chopping board with a side tray, the utensils Kevin Chiam has developed could be a help to the visually impaired – if he can resolve one problem.
By Desmond Ng
SINGAPORE: While volunteering at the Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped (SAVH), Mr Kevin Chiam was puzzled by the numerous scars on the hands and arms of one of its members, Ms Rosie Wong.
When he saw that this was not uncommon among his other visually impaired friends, he decided to ask her why. Her answer started him on a journey that could yet make quite an impact on the blind community.
“It’s really because … when they’re cooking, just cutting a vegetable like a tomato (can injure them),” he related.
“I realised that cooking was one of the more challenging tasks (for them) … There’s this fear of getting cut, injured or scalded by hot water or hot surfaces.”
It was enough to motivate the then undergraduate to design a special set of kitchen utensils called Folks – including a knife, a chopping board and a stove ring – to protect the visually impaired from injuries when they prepare their meals.
His kitchenware has already helped Ms Wong. However, despite his best efforts to put it on the market to help this community, he has been unable to do so because of a lack of funding and availability of manufacturers here.
The 26-year-old reckoned that he will need at least S$40,000 in capital to produce it and bring it to market – the “biggest leap for any designer”, he told Made in Singapore, a series about local inventors.
“The responses (from companies) were definitely constructive,” he said. “However, in most of these conversations, the capability to manufacture was a hurdle that’s hard to cross.”
DESIGN ‘CAN EMPOWER PEOPLE’
Mr Chiam has had an interest in arts and crafts since primary school; he loved drawing and painting, and later decided to pursue a diploma in product and industrial design from Temasek Polytechnic.
“I found that design was the closest (thing) there was to art because it’s a combination of art and … achieving something. You can solve problems, and you can help people,” he said.
Today, he is a prolific inventor, having designed some 40 different projects, with a quarter of them launched for the market.