Student designs award-winning line of kitchenware for the blind

National University of Singapore student Kevin Chiam designed Folks, a line of kitchenware for the blind. Chiam reinvented common tools with tactile elements to make them easier to use with little vision. Folks aims to empower the blind by allowing them to cook safely with dignity.

“For the blind, preparing food naturally becomes challenging as they learn to cope with the uncertainties of spills or injuries like knife cuts or burns,” Chiam told the James Dyson Award

But when Chiam saw blind MasterChef Christine Há cook with an expert hand, he became inspired to understand how blind people compensate with their other senses to get by. 

“The blind rely heavily on sensory references like touch to make spatial judgment — the lack of such often results in accidents,” Chiam explained. “Thus the solutions physicalize tactile cues which they can rely on for the next step in the cooking process.”

Chiam incorporates touching and hearing senses into his kitchenware. The knife has a retractable guard that acts as a physical anchor and guide during cutting. The line also includes a cutting board with a side tray that allows the person to easily transfer and manage ingredients. The third piece is a teaspoon with a floating buoy that indicates to the user when it makes contact with a liquid. This is to prevent burns with hot drinks. 

While Folks isn’t on the market yet, the design has earned Chiam a slew of awards including the prestigious James Dyson Award in 2018 and first place at the 2019 Student Design Competition at Chicago’s International Home + Housewares Show. 

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