Why you should care
Because education and creative play are important building blocks for every child, no matter the obstacles.
When Chatchai Aphibanpoonpon was studying for his MBA, he volunteered part-time at Bangkok’s School for the Blind, helping students with their homework. In doing so, he found that it was difficult to teach subjects, such as geometry, to children who couldn’t see shapes.
“By helping and being present, I witnessed the difficulties of studying and — perhaps even more, at least for me — of teaching,” the young Thai entrepreneur told OZY. “Without a proper tool, it was almost impossible to explain certain concepts … I really wanted to have an interactive and participative communication [with them].”
Frustrated by the limitations, Chatchai began experimenting with different tools and materials, but his background in economics had not equipped him for engineering or arts and crafts. “After long hours with fingers all sticky in glue and wool,” he finally reached out to a designer.
A few years on, Chatchai has assembled a small team and launched the Lensen Drawing Kit — a simple, inexpensive Velcro board with a wool-spool pen that allows visually impaired children to draw pictures they can feel.
The idea is to enable blind kids to draw wonderful, wacky and even scribbled pictures, just like other kids their age.
But Chatchai also hopes the tool can transform academics for disabled students. In math, science and geography lessons, for example, the Lensen is meant to give visually impaired children the ability to interact with graphs and diagrams. Rather than trying to conceptualize something they’ve never seen, the pen gives form to fuzzy concepts, allowing students to feel their way to understanding.
The Lensen also lets children communicate visually, giving nondisabled people — folks the team refers to as “outsiders” — the chance to see the world through alternatively abled people’s eyes. “It’s important for ‘outsiders’ … to understand how the world looks from another perspective,” Chatchai says.
The goal is to build awareness about the skills and potential of people often marginalized by society’s view of their disability.
It’s important for ‘outsiders’ to understand how the world looks from another perspective.
So far, the company has been positively received in Thailand and is nurturing dreams of expanding. They have won a number of social business competitions, and received support and social investments from local companies.
The idea is simple, but proof will be in the sales. The kits, available from Chatchai’s Bangkok-based startup Klongdinsor, cost just $25, and have already been distributed to the majority of schools for the blind in Thailand. The next step, the team hopes, is to distribute the kits internationally.