Drawing Your Feelings
When we asked Gift from M:aD which changemakers from their community should meet, Chatchai Aphibanpoonpon, founder of KlongDinsor, was up on the list. An amazingly simple product allows blind kids to express themselves through drawing.
We make special pens with which blind people can draw. They can feel the line coming out. The tool is very simple. It's nothing more than a velcro pad and a pen that, instead of releasing ink, unwinds a yarn rolled up on top of it. First we design this for kids to draw, but then we learned it’s a good communication tool. How blind kids imagine clouds? Water? Table? They’ve never seen it. With this tool they can draw and explain what’s in their mind. Lensen was our first product, the beginning of the company. Now every school for blind in Thailand uses it, we also export to China, Hong Kong, we are talking to Singapore, Germany, Italy, many countries.
The concept is used by blind kids themselves, but it also allows other people to share visual art with them. One of KlongDinsor's events is an exhibition with famous paintings drawn by using Lensen. For the first time blind people are able to see, or maybe rather feel, what visual art means. And it’s not the only event KlongDinsor organizes.
This morning I went for the run we organize regularly. We saw that one of the problems of blind people is that they don’t exercise much, so we started to organize exercise activities for them, mostly running. We pair them with volunteers, “guide runners”. We had about 50 pairs running this morning. It was the 6th run, we organize it monthly. At the beginning, it was 12 couples, now it’s much more and they started to exercise together also on weekends or after work. They become friends. It’s not only about blind to be able to exercise, but also about connecting their world with other people. We also take them to the beach with volunteers, or to the cinema to watch movies with audio-description.
Beside organizing events and providing Lensen, KlongDinsor supports companies which want to work with people with disabilities.
We have special services for companies who want to hire people with disabilities, it is going very well. We already have contracts with three big companies for the next year. Our challenge is not about money anymore. Before we thought about projects, do it on a small scale and then sell it to companies: if you want to organize it on a bigger scale, hire us. Now it’s the opposite, they say: we have this project, do something for us. And we have to create something new for them every time. It’s much more difficult. But it’s good that we have constant income, so we can plan things ahead and expend our work to other areas.
After one year they already broke even, and next year, thanks to the three contracts mentioned above, they should get profits. And everything started from a simple volunteering action.
3-4 years ago I volunteered helping blind kids doing their homework. Teachers have no time to focus on 1-2 blind kids when they have hundreds others, so they give them the same homework, which blind kids cannot do alone. I started with Lensen just for fun. But a lot of people saw the need for it, I began to collaborate with others and here we are. I started as a volunteer but now I need to make it sustainable. Donations are not effective, we decided to settle it down into a business. It’s a long way, a lot of work to do.
As Chatchai underlines himself, he is lucky to have good family business behind, which allows him to take risks and experiment without constantly worrying about the income. Even if it’s not your case, you can still try something. The most important is to do it step by step.
Think big but act small. Big thing: change the way blind run in Thailand, so they are able to participate in every regular event in the city. But start small: 12 people running in the park. We did it for free, we took some photos, videos. Once you do it, the second time it’s a lot easier, thanks to photos, videos, word of months people know what to expect. Start very small and scale it up.
More about KlongDinsor: klongdinsor.com