BANGALORE ~ In the city’s upmarket neighbourhood of Koramangala, restaurants have to reinvent themselves to keep people interested. There are always cheaper or cooler places to go to. But at Om, a vegetarian restaurant popular with office crowds for its thalis, it isn’t about hipness. It’s about being convenient even for the differently-abled. Om has menu cards in Braille for the visually challenged and in large fonts for those with low vision.
A chance conversation with EnAble India, an NGO that works with the differently-abled, set things in motion. The EnAble India office is close to the shopping complex that houses Om restaurant and its employees and volunteers often eat lunch there. Among other things, the NGO has several programmes for the visually challenged. These groups too frequent the restaurant.
One afternoon, Bhavna Jain, the owner of Om, met Gangamma, a 21-year old visually-challenged Bharatanatyam dancer who had just returned after a performance in the US. When it was time to order, the girl asked a waiter to read out the menu to her. “That’s when it struck me how unfair it was that someone who could travel the world had to depend on someone else for something as mundane as ordering her lunch,” says Jain.
Gayathri Iyer, Sharath HN and a team of a few others from EnAble India, all visually challenged themselves, volunteered to design the menu card in Braille. On Ugadi festival this April, the restaurant made it possible for the visually challenged to be a little more independent. “We complain about small things when we go out, but we don’t realise what the visually challenged have to contend with. Abroad there are many facilities for them, not so in India,” says Jain.
Sharath says, “[the menu card] was one of our employability projects, which also include money pouches to identify currency notes, taking printouts, etcetera. Another restaurant also printed its menu card in Braille, but never used it.” Jain says that the patronage of the visually challenged has increased after the introduction of the Braille menu card.