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Blind Faith Upgrade kit just the 1st step towards promoting accessibility, says Isobar India

Among the most celebrated accessibility initiatives in 2018 was the Blind Faith Upgrade launched by Isobar India, part of the global Dentsu Aegis Network. This is a kit that enables a hotel to transform any of its rooms into one that is accessible to blind and low vision people.

The Blind Faith Upgrade kit was introduced first at Hotel Ramada in Ajmer, Rajasthan and aims to bring travel closer to a community, that despite its large presence, continues to be isolated when it comes to accessible travel.

The kit's USP lies in its innovative design that provides customer service as well as creates a business opportunity and has got a good response from NGOs in countries in Europe and South America, says Isobar India's National Creative Director Anish Varghese. The agency is looking at ways to adapt the solutions there.

The Ramada - Blind Faith Upgrade campaign also won the prestigious CLIO last year. This is an international award that recognizes innovation and creative excellence in advertising, design and communication,

The aim says Varghese is to highlight the fact that being disabled is not the obstacle. Accessibility is.

Technology could bridge the gap between differently-abled and accessibility, it's essential to find the right difficulty to tackle. We are pretty happy about the response from the campaign, both on product and award perspective. - Anish Varghese, National Creative Director, Isobar India

Considerable time was spent on research by the Isobar India team before the launch.

"After we thought of the idea, we really wanted to understand what are the actual needs of visually impaired people and their challenges, troubles that they face when they do travel. We wanted to be in touch with their wants and also be able to make their journey and travel easier," says Gopa Kumar, Executive Vice President, Isobar india. "For this, extensive discussion and meet ups happened with visually challenged people, the team also met pilgrims with visual challenges in Ajmer Sharif to understand their discomfort when they travel and stay."

This was followed up with discussions with hotel authorities to see how the kit could be made available and used with minimal changes to the existing structure. "It was a great learning experience and journey for the team as they came to face with realities of the challenges that visually challenged people face day in day out and how ill-equipped our public spaces are in dealing with them and how as non-disabled people we take everything for granted," adds Kumar.

How it works

The end result is a thoughtfully conceived product that enables independence in blind and low vision travellers. The Blind Faith Upgrade kit has Braille labels, which can convert any phone into a Braille-enabled phone, reusable-tactile paving tiles to help customers negotiate their room in the hotel and surrounding areas and Braille literature with audio assist. There is an audio assist pen as well, to help visually impaired customers read the hotel menu and converts written language into an audio description.

It's a product that has enabled Hotel Ramada to broaden its hospitality experience to a wider range of people, says Manish Gupta, General Manager, Hotel Ramada, Ajmer. "We are glad we could take up the Blind Faith Upgrade initiative. As a hospitality brand, it's our objective to deliver accessible tourism to all. This is an important step towards it."

Isobar India not only conceived and developed the Blind Faith Upgrade kit but also built an online platform with a communications campaign to back it. The film was made fully accessible with audio description to ensure it reached the target audience. The film has been viewed more than two million times.

The good news is that going ahead Isobar India is closely looking at other industries.

"If you see, the solution is tailor-made for hotels as an industry. So, the obvious questions which we expect is what about other industries? Education, travel, health etc. The next phase which we are planning is for an industry other than hotels and we see it as an ongoing project," says Varghese.

People with disabilities are the world's largest, fastest-growing minority group. However, they have been pushed to the margins, largely due to poor accessibility. Isobar India hopes its product and the powerful online campaign will encourage more people to think of similar initiatives.

Here is the film on the Blind Faith Upgrade kit

ALSO READ: Breaking notions about travel & disability with accessible travel for blind people

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