July 30, 2008

Imagine, India


The travel industry sells experiences.

India's Incredible India campaign has been remarkably successful at increasing tourism. It has "captured the imagination" with an unspoken command. "Imagine India. Imagine yourself in India."

I enjoy the verbal and mental jujitsu of inverting the familiar to extract new meanings so it was natural that I would wake up this morning realizing that my core message to attendees of our Inclusive Tourism workshop series in New Delhi, Mumbai, Cochin, and Chennai is not far from the Incredible India message. It is this:

Imagine me, India. Imagine us in India.

Handicapping barriers are at their root a failure of imagination. Universal Design is meant to tickle the imagination into full awareness; into enlightenment.

India is imagining itself anew in the world marketplace.

A market is an interaction between buyers and sellers. In it goods and services are exchanged. During the steps leading up to a sale information is exchanged in a mutual process of education and trust-building. Sales follows education.

The Incredible India campaign will only continue on it exponential success trajectory if it understands that it is engaged in only the earliest stages of information and trust exchange.

"Brand India" must differentiate itself as "incredible" at communication. It must communicate a message that assures potential guests that they have been "imagined in India."

Tirolesa de Panico

India has a movingly genuine national culture of extraordinary hospitality - "The guest is god."

Set alongside a unique landscape and built environment it is an experience. India can move a visitor through nature and humanity at a depth of thousands of years - or at Bollywood and digital speeds.

Heritage temples, the Taj Mahal, wild mountain hill stations need to be made accessible. So do the transportation systems to get there and the lodging nearby. Everything from quiet strolls to adrenaline-pumping extreme sports are where you will find travelers with disabilities spending their time and money these days.

Imagine, India, the humanity of travelers with disabilities. Infuse every aspect of your current growth spurt in infrastructure, business, and policy with Universal Design:

What is Universal Design?

Universal Design is a framework for the design of places, things, information, communication and policy to be usable by the widest range of people operating in the widest range of situations without special or separate design. Most simply, Universal Design is human-centered design of everything with everyone in mind.

Universal Design is also called Inclusive Design, Design-for-All and Lifespan Design. It is not a design style but an orientation to any design process that starts with a responsibility to the experience of the user. It has a parallel in the green design movement that also offers a framework for design problem solving based on the core value of environmental responsibility. Universal Design and green design are comfortably two sides of the same coin but at different evolutionary stages. Green design focuses on environmental sustainability, Universal Design on social sustainability.


What might that look like in India?

The answer will evolve in dialogue between government, industry, the disability community of India, and international visitors. That is the process these workshops is meant to assist.

Whatever it looks like, judging from the reception I have experienced in my short stay here I am sure the result will be incredible.

Posted by rollingrains at July 30, 2008 11:48 AM