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Saturday, 13 June 2015

Bengaluru Taxi Service Increases Mobility for Differently Abled, Senior Citizens

Moving around a city can be a nightmare for the differently-abled. Stairs, rough roads and terrible pavements can become barriers for the wheelchair-bound and those who because of age or illness are not as mobile as the general population. A small taxi service in Bengaluru, Kickstart, is providing specially equipped cabs for those who need a little more help moving around the city - and the pilot project's first year has proved a life-changer for some.

32-year-old Harish Krishnamurthy is a software professional, who met with an accident 12 years ago that left him dependent on a wheelchair. For eleven years he was largely house-bound.

Mr Harish told NDTV, "I've been in my house, unable to, you know, think of a way to come out. It was a messy affair, means you know you have to collapse the wheelchair, book a cab and put in the back, transfer me into the chair and then back. I am a tall and hefty guy so it takes a lot of people to transfer in and out."

Now, he commutes daily to work - 20 km away - in a taxi provided by Kickstart. It has a ramp that allows Harish to ride his wheelchair right into it, and back out again, with no need for collapsing his wheelchair and transferring onto a car seat.

Speaking of his new mobility, Mr Harish said, "It was just like flying, you know. After being cooped up ... suddenly feeling free... That feeling of freedom, it's amazing."

Kickstart Cabs began a year ago in Bengaluru - a pilot project funded by the Corporate Social Responsibility budget of Mphasis, an IT company - and it is running four specially adapted cars. The director is Vidhya Ramsubban, who has worked for years in the field of disability. The taxis had been modified to include a battery-operated seat that swings out of the door and can be detached from the car and attached to wheels to become a wheelchair.

"We think there is a huge scope for this not only on Bangalore but all over India. We've been getting a lot of calls from everywhere to ask us to start there. We have people who go to hospitals on a very regular basis, who need regular therapy. We also have a lot of senior citizens who use this," said Ms Vidya.

Saravanan, a Kickstart driver, believes in the worth of his job. He said, "Before joining the job, I liked the sound of it. They told us we are giving service to the disabled. You have to travel at a certain speed - it will be good for you and you will be of service to others too."

Mr Harish, like millions of other Indians with disabilities has a wish list. "It would be great if government does some help to NGOs or services like this which help physically challenged people to come out...because in India, problems related to physically challenged people have always been a problem, means our voices are never heard, isn't it? From the roads to the platforms, even in the road outside my house, I cannot travel that easily," he said.

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