For the inexperienced Westerner, using chopsticks can be a maddening affair. Imagine how much worse it must be, though, for the disabled: those individuals who might have lost their thumb or fingers in an accident, been born without them entirely, or might be partly paralyzed.
From that perspective, the fork–while less elegant–might be a better design than chopsticks for the disabled. But Japanese craftsman Katsuyuki Miyabi doesn’t believe that should exclude the disabled from using the age-old utensils. Rather, he uses his incredible woodworking skills to custom-tailor chopsticks to the disabilities of his clients.
Based in the Fukui prefecture of Japan, Miyabi’s chopsticks are spring-operated devices that require little strength and dexterity to use. Although they look like chopsticks, they operate almost like tongs. Just squeeze the chopsticks together to grab food, and once the pressure is released, they spring back open, ready for that next piece of sushi.
But Manabí’s chopstick designs aren’t a one-size-fits-all affair. There is no baseline when it comes to the way in which people might be disabled, and because chopsticks require so much finesse to use, a person with a missing thumb might need a totally different design for chopsticks than one whose last two fingers are absent.
As the blog Spoon & Tamago points out, Manabí first meets with his clients face-to-face, and has them choose one of many models of chopsticks as a baseline. He then custom tailors this design according to the precise measurements of his client’s hand, and the unique nature of their disability. The result is a pair of chopsticks that are uniquely suited to them.
But the point of these meetings isn’t just to make sure that the craftsman understands the needs of his client. Spoon & Tamago says it’s equally important for Manabí to understand how his clients’ disabilities affect him or her in their daily lives. By seeing exactly how he can make a difference, Manabí finds himself galvanized to continue with the project.
In Japan, one’s ability to use chopsticks and the way they wield them reflects strongly upon them. Thanks to Manabí’s work, his clients never have to worry that their disability will cause them to lose face at the dinner table. You can see more of his work on his studio’s website.
[H/T Spoon & Tamago]