How Mosi Mosi Lab empowers Hong Kong’s disabled community through inclusive art and design
- Designer Comma Leung Man-wai discusses the process of making accessible products and partnering with disabled people to craft meaningful artwork
- Every week, Talking Points gives you a worksheet to practise your reading comprehension with questions and exercises about the story we’ve written
Handwritten numbers are scribbled all over a simple pouch, with some of them even written backwards. This may seem like a typo, but in fact, these were created by children with dyslexia during a workshop hosted by designer Comma Leung Man-wai.
Dyslexia is a common learning difficulty that can cause problems with reading, writing and spelling – hence, the reversed numbers. Children with this condition often struggle in school, but the 32-year-old designer wanted to use the pouch to show the world their potential.
The pouch is just one of Leung’s many products that raise awareness about people with disabilities – from wallets to help the blind distinguish different bills, to coin pouches for those with cerebral palsy.
For seven years, the communication design graduate has specialised in social design, which is about creating products that address human issues.
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It all started in 2015 with her final year project at Polytechnic University.
“I realised that ... I need to do what I love and help others,” said Leung.
During her research, Leung met a blind girl, prompting her to learn about the everyday lives and challenges of people with vision impairment.
“A common issue they face is not being able to distinguish between banknotes,” she said.
This inspired her to create the In:visible Wallet. Since a Hong Kong bill’s size corresponds with its value, Leung’s wallet helps users gauge a note’s width by sliding it against a panel with staircase-like ridges.
She remembered how happy the girl was when she received the wallet.
“This makes it easier for [blind people] to connect with society,” Leung explained.
Her designs for disabled groups won her the 2015 Hong Kong Young Design Talent Award, which sent her to Japan for a year-long internship with different design companies.
During her free time there, Leung would see shops selling beautiful products made by disabled people, and the designer wanted to bring this concept to her home city.
“In Hong Kong, NGOs are still promoting their services for people in need using old and traditional ways. Few people advocate for their needs through design,” she said.
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So in 2016, she established her own design studio, Mosi Mosi Lab, a name that comes from a Cantonese colloquial saying that means “everything is all right – do not worry”. Through her studio, Leung wanted to nurture the talents of those in the disabled community.
“Can they be the ones contributing instead of only being the recipient?” she pointed out.
For example, through drawing workshops for dyslexic children, patterns for products like pouches would appear.
Last Mid-Autumn Festival, Leung collaborated with John Lee, a 19-year-old autistic artist interning at her studio, to design packaging for mooncakes.
“He has autism and an artist’s passion, which made him a stubborn person to work with at first,” Leung recalled.
But after negotiating on the product, Lee felt accomplished with the result in the end.
Its design stemmed from a question Leung and her team asked Lee: “What does autism mean to you?”
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On the packaging, one rabbit looks back at another and invites it to join the others. This was meant to show how society must work to include those who are different.
In its collaborations, the studio pays the artists for their work. Leung described herself as a facilitator, working with the disabled community to create something meaningful.
“This is not just about designing pretty products. This is something that could change someone’s life,” she said.
Click here to download a printable worksheet with questions and exercises about this story. Answers are on the second page of the document.