Colorblind Design

The YABT entrepreneurs of the month are Adis Ozuna and Natalia Garcia, founders of the Colorblind Design, a Dominican company that promotes accessible tourism. Colorblind Design was a finalist for TIC Americas 2014 and named among the 50 most innovative start-ups according to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor. Thanks to the tireless work of the founders, access to facilities and tourist attractions by people with disabilities has become an issue that is gaining more popularity in Dominican Republic.

By 2014, more than 5 million tourists visited the island, of which 90 percent stayed in hotels, and according to figures from the Central Bank of Dominican Republic, about 60 percent were from the United States. According to Addis, most of these tourists take advantage of travel packages and end up staying in the same hotels, the majority of which do not meet the minimum accessibility requirements. Understanding this reality, Colorblind Design is a response to the lack of services and lack of awareness on the subject access to tourist centers such as hotels and attractions of disabled people in Dominican Republic.

Colorblind Design was born from a thesis project between Natalia and Adis during their graduate studies in architecture. Adis, besides being an architect, she is also a professor and is always worried about blind children, as they were denied access to schools until two years ago. On the other hand, Natalia spent part of her studies in the investigation of seniors with disabilities and barriers being experienced in their daily lives. Curiosity and passion for accessibility, led both of them to create a code of interior design to stimulate the senses of blind people through sounds and feelings capable of transmitting colors. Adis confesses, “to create Colorblind Design, I realized how architecture can sometimes behave in a discriminatory manner”.

By participating in TIC Americas 2014, Adis and Natalia agreed to the necessary training to gradually convert their project into a consulting accessibility service in architectural design. As a result, they participated as finalists in the category of Social Innovation in Asuncion, Paraguay. Later, YABT granted Adis with a scholarship to participate in a workshop in Business Labs in order to refine the Colorblind Design business model. This prior experience helped them to be awarded with one of the 50 most innovative start-ups worldwide by the Kauffman Foundation during Global Entrepreneurship Week.

After a long and detailed market research, Adis and Natalia concluded that the Dominican market is still too premature to assimilate the potential of this service. However, this did not stop them to promote the agenda of accessibility and promote the importance of accessibility throughout the country. To accelerate the process of awareness to the population and the hotel and tourist services industries, they established alliances with strategic partners such as the APEC University, the Red Española de Turismo Accesible and the Consorcio Dominicano de Competitividad Turística. This allowed them to carry out the First Congress of Accessible Tourism in the Dominican Republic where the I Declaración de República Dominicana por un Turismo Accesible was signed in the country. Additionally, Adis and Natalia launched a campaign to promote the signing of this declaration in order to submit it to the Ministry, to support them in achieving their goal of signatures click here.

Recently, Colorblind Design began to work on a tour guide accessible for the Dominican Republic commissioned by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Through this, Adis and Natalia hope to interest hotels and hostels and to incorporate the issue of accessibility. Despite the recent gains of Colorblind Design, Adis confesses that it is still a challenge to achieve the implementation of the agenda for Accessible Tourism. However, the founders of Colorblind Design argue that their design services intended at first to enact small renovations and adaptations of the interior design of hotels and tourist centers as well as providing staff training on accessible tourism, with the aim of significantly improving the experience of disabled tourists. In the next five years, Colorblind Design hopes to continue influencing the nascent movement of tourism for all, and witness a real deal for design services toward accessibility as well as the emergence of destinations accessible to disabled tourists.

Finally, we asked if Adis could share some valuable advice for new entrepreneurs who will soon participate in the TIC Americas. Adis said that from her experience anyone should want to be an entrepreneur “first start believing in your idea. Many told us that there was no market in the Dominican Republic and it was not the time. One year later through many activities and access to advisors, we can see and feel the possibilities. Although the market is not evident, the need exists. The worst thing you can do is not to try. “