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The ALL ACCESSIBLE, 3 in 1 restaurant menu for the blind and other disabilities
Accessible Product

Category: Media & Entertainment, Assistive Technology, Made in India,

Nomination Details

Organization name: Radio Mirchi, ENIL

Launched Date: 2014-10-17

Who has created it: Pallavi Rao Narvekar

Problem statement and how the Accessible Innovation solves the problem.

When was the last time you saw a visually impaired person ordering a meal without assistance at a restaurant? Perhaps never. Ever wondered why? Visually impaired people are mostly dependent on their fellow sighted friends and find it awkward to keep seeking assistance.

Mirchi Cares, a CSR initiative by Radio Mirchi, in association with its knowledge partners XRCVC Mumbai, SAKSHAM and Chanakya Mudrak, has come up with a 3-in-1 restaurant menu that not only would the blind friends be able to access but also senior citizens with a weak and diminishing eyesight and our dyslexic and autistic friends who do not have the best motor skills. Imagine a blind person wanting to order food of his or her choice but is left at the mercy of an impatient waiter who provides only a little information on what is on the menu and even more important how much each dish costs.

In such cases, they have to totally depend on the waiter or their friend to read out the menu or suggest the menu of the day to them. With the result, they neither enjoy the food nor the experience and avoid stepping out for a meal the next time. However, with this simple 3-in-1 all accessible restaurant menu card, they have the option of reading the text in bold and large text, reading it in Braille or simply "listen" to the menu and corresponding description to the menu and the price in a human voice. They are able to make a choice of their own and order food with dignity.

Tell us who is the target audience and how the accessible innovation will benefit them. Please specify the different target audiences groups and provide numbers and statistics of your current clients as well as what is the potential number of people that the innovation can impact and empower:

The Target audience is clearly the blind and visually impaired people as also autistic and dyslexic people. This menu is of great help to the senior citizens with limited or diminishing vision too.

Mirchi Cares, the CSR initiative of Radio Mirchi, started with a Braille menu for Chungwa Restaurant in GK II, New Delhi. However, this was a only Braille menu. After its launch and sampling, we realized that not all blind people can read braille and so this menu was worked upon to make it more user friendly. Thus, was incorporated the large text, braille and audio into the menu. As of now, we have these menus in 12 branches of Bombay Blue in Mumbai and are presently in talks with Azure restaurant in Vadodra for converting their menu into a blind friendly menu.

How is the accessible innovative solution different from current practices or ways of solving the problem?

As far as inclusivity of this kind is concerned India lags behind. There are just a handful of restaurants that caters to the needs of the specially abled. Sadly, even convincing new restaurant and hotel partners becomes a daunting task since this 'small' project is not lucrative enough a proposition for them. They aptly question, "how many blind people would eventually turn up at the restaurant to make the menu viable?" Our answer is not many. Yet we have to make a start. Why shouldn't such an all accessible menu be made mandatory while starting a restaurant?

Currently, its the waiters or the manager in charge who help the specially abled in a restaurant meal. However, most are not trained to deal or interact with people with special disabilities and might lack basic courtesies.

How is the accessible innovative solution new, different or unique in terms of the technology or implementation?

Its innovative because it has the option of reading or listening to a menu. The special pen attached to the menu has to be touched to the sticker next to each menu item to be able to listen to the name of the item, what all it contains and the price. The menu is recorded in the voices of the Radio Mirchi jocks, who from time to time update the pricing and new items added to the menu.

Each restaurant generally has two such menus that suffices for a group or table of friends. The menu cover is mostly bigger than the original since it incorporates the text in large font. However, the print is the same. Which ideally begins a talking point in the restaurant with the sighted people more interested in the menu card. And by word of mouth is how we feel the technology shall reach out to other hotels and restaurants.

How do you get the innovative solution to reach the target audience? Please elaborate on the your go to market strategy and which geographies do you currently work in and what are your future plans for marketing your innovation.

What started as a small experiment now we realize has immense potential to expand, not only in a particular city but across the cities of the country. With Radio Mirchi stations spread in more than 50 cities this could take a bigger proportion in the coming months. Radio Mirchi uses, its social network platform as well as the airways to inform the general public of such initiatives as well goads others to join us in this endeavor.

What is the potential impact of the innovative solution on the lives of the target audience? Please elaborate by providing statistics of the current impact and the potential impact.

As mentioned, this is just the beginning. One Chinese restaurant, Chungwa in Delhi and 12 branches of Bombay Blue in Mumbai. The numbers only increase from here on.

Stories of how the Innovation has touched lives.

Madhubala Sharma, working with IBM enthusiastically scanned the ‘raised dots’ and found it “liberating and empowering” to be able to read the menu on their own for the first time and order food of their ‘own’ choice. She shared how both she and her husband love eating out but invariably end up ordering what the waiter recommends or what is the Chef’s favourite. She said it was great to read the entire menu for a change.

Veena Verma, a software engineer with TERI was excited when she realised that each dish came with a ‘description’ to it! She and her husband Prashant Verma, Joint Secretary, National Association of the Blind, Delhi together laughed at their predicament when they go out for a meal and never know what the total bill amount is, till the message notification on their phone. However, with the Braille menu, they can read the price list on their own.

Interestingly, entrepreneur Baldev Gulati was thrilled to know that a restaurant served so many types of dishes! Totally dependent on either a sighted friend or a patient waiter, he said, “we hardly get to know of more than 5 to 10 dishes on the menu and find it way to embarrassing to ask the price of each item. It is especially awkward when you have limited cash in your wallet and can’t tell the waiter the same.”

The ever enterprising George Abraham, CEO Score Foundation, loved the food and the menu and was keen Mirchi Cares replicates the same in other restaurants and food chains.

Links to a few videos about the innovation: