An accessible tourism initiative built on Blind Faith

Anish and Gopa on a mission to make hotels in India accessible to the visually impaired

What was initially borne out of the need to fulfil a one-off request at Hotel Ramada Ajmer has evolved into a scalable and open-source idea that can easily and quickly make hotels more accessible to visually impaired guests.

When an annual religious festival brought an influx of visually impaired guests to the town, in India’s northwestern state of Rajasthan, the management of Hotel Ramada Ajmer approached Anish Varghese, national creative director of Isobar India, and Gopa Kumar, vice president of Isobar India for help.

Anish (left) and Gopa on a mission to make hotels in India accessible to the visually impaired

The ensuing solution would outlive the festival, with the promise of reaching more hotels and even other sectors within the service industry.

“The whole idea to create the Blind Faith Upgrade, a kit that can help hotels transform any room into a blind-friendly room, came when Ramada approached us for finding a solution that can ensure a comfortable stay for their visually-impaired guests,” shared Anish.

The open-source kit consists of Braille labels, which can convert any phone into a Braille-enabled phone, reusable-tactile paving tiles to help orientate the customer in their room, within the hotel and surrounding areas and Braille literature with audio assist – a technology built into a pen that converts written language (such as on menus) into an audio description.

Gopa said Isobar has received enquiries from across the globe, but the agency has yet to sort out the if’s and how’s of bringing the concept overseas.

Instead, the agency is now looking to take the product to the next level, expanding the initiative across the tourism industry.

Gopa remarked: “Any place – be it a hotel or otherwise – should be accessible to all irrespective of their limitation and that’s the thought process that resulted in Blind Faith Upgrade.”

Yet, while the digital revolution in India has led to technological advancements that have helped democratise information and services across the country, approximately eight million blind people in India continue to be disconnected. Travelling especially can be a challenge as finding accessible tourism services often prove to be difficult, costly and time consuming.

“In India, only one in every 250 hotel rooms caters to differently-abled people and is far lagging behind the global scenario,” Anish further pointed out.

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