Wheels of Change, a non-governmental organization (NGO), which promotes the development of an inclusive society, launched their new project KickStart Cabs yesterday. The social enterprise provides taxi services that are designed to provide personalized and accessible transport to those with any kind of mobility restrictions and charges standard rates. The announcement was made at the Press Club in Bangalore by Ganesh Ayyar, CEO of MphasiS – a global service provider, which delivers technology-based solutions around the world. MphasiS has partnered with Wheels of Change and the Government of Karnataka for the initiative.
The 3-vehicle fleet of KickStart Cabs are modified to cater to the needs of the disabled as well as senior citizens: the first car, a Swift Dzire, has a swivel chair that can come half way out of the front door, facilitating a person with crutches or a walking stick or on a wheel chair to make an easy transition into the car seat. The second model, a Wagon R, has the facility of a ramp that opens out of the vehicle back door, allowing a wheel chair to be wheeled in and secured into the car. Their third model, a Toyota Liva, has a detachable seat that can be converted into a wheel chair. The fleet also has a GPS monitoring system to track their movement.
“Overall, it is a combination of both the product and the service. Over the next five years, we expect to reach out to about five thousand people with disabilities and senior citizens, which is about four per cent of the targeted population”, says Vidya. According to her, The numbers are hard to project, but they assure that this kind of service will increase employment for people with disabilities, as well as helping decrease drop-out rates of patients attending long-term treatments in hospitals where commuting can be a very big hurdle. For now, the service is only available in Bangalore.
KickStart Cabs came into existence as Vidhya wanted to leverage her experience of working with disabled people and launch a business venture of her own. “Looking at the unfriendliness of our transportation system towards the elderly and disabled people, a cab service for them made a logical sense for the venture. Another challenge is to raise awareness about this issue and be able to look for livelihoods for people who are marginalized, so this is a small way in which we can provide them some relief”, she says.
During his speech, Ayyar mentioned the importance of the project. “It is a much required service that provides freedom, mobility and dignity for those who may need support. Our partnership with a social enterprise is sustainable and can support the society at large”, he added. After the announcement, two of KickStart’s modified vehicles were tested in front of the audience.
The challenges regarding mobility for people with disabilities are innumerable – a very small part of the population has access to buildings, public places, vehicles, buses. According to the last Census data, there are about six lakh people with disabilities and seven lakh senior citizens only in Bangalore. “It has also a lot to do with the common mindsets”, says Vidya. “The positive side is that now this is changing and there are lot of companies which employ people with disabilities. As they are starting to get premium jobs, they need a way to go to work and not only stay inside their houses as it was believed before.”
Through www.kickstartcabs.com, people can also book taxis online, which can help the deaf-mute individuals who are employed by the firm. The website is compatible with international norms set by Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) for the disabled. Using a mobile, one can avail the service by calling 8105600445.