Student with autism gives back to disabled community through Temasek Poly’s design challenge, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Student with autism gives back to disabled community through Temasek Poly’s design challenge

Tang Wen Xi, 20, was diagnosed with mild autism at the age of five. He attended Pathlight School from 2010 to 2016, before moving on to St. Hilda’s Secondary School, where he completed his O level examinations in 2020.

Currently a student at Temasek Polytechnic (TP), Mr Tang was thrilled to have the opportunity to give back to the special needs community and coach persons with disabilities (PWDs).

As a student pursuing a Diploma in Product and Industrial Design – now known as Product Experience and Design – Mr Tang had to take part in a design challenge, as part of his second-year core module.

This challenge was part of TP’s partnership with SG Enable – an agency dedicated to enabling PwDs – requiring its students to design a product with sustainable materials that PWDs can replicate.

“We had to make products upcycling materials from Singapore Airlines. What we were given were the life vests, and the leather from the headrests,” Mr Tang told The Straits Times.

There were many considerations he had to take into account when conceptualising the design of his product series.

“How can we make it easier for the PWDs to make? What sort of linkages can we use to tie it to Singapore? And what is its market appeal?”

As an answer to all these questions, Mr Tang created the “Baobei” series consisting of a pouch, cardholder and keyholder.

He drew inspiration from the Disney short film Bao, as his products were small and of sentimental value to him.

Mr Tang is currently working as an intern with Social Gifting, a social enterprise, to teach PwDs how to create these unique products so that they can be sold for income.

He recognised the need to continually change his original designs in order to make them manageable for PwDs to replicate. This was his biggest challenge, as there was a lot of trial and error involved.

Despite the initial hurdles, Mr Tang is pleased that through this experience, he got to transition from being a beneficiary to a giver, and from a student to a coach.

Apart from the positive impact he has had on others through this endeavour, he also learnt about the importance of communication and resilience.

“Asking for help is not a bad idea. If you try and fail, just try again,” said Mr Tang.

Ms Emily Ong, the director of Enabling Village and Strategy & Innovation at SG Enable, says that this design challenge was initiated to change mindsets about the talents PWDs possess and provide them with alternative pathways to use these talents.

(From left) Chief empowerment officer of Social Gifting Valen Tan Husistein, Temasek Polytechnic students Tang Wen Xi and Yugaprasad Ramesh, and director of Enabling Village and Strategy & Innovation at SG Enable Emily Ong. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

“It’s not about just selling things, or producing things to sell. It’s also about building capabilities and giving hope and dignity to all this talent that we have,” said Ms Ong.

According to her, it is not always easy to find good design. That is why TP’s students from the school of design were encouraged to take part in this challenge.