The Volkswagen van has four seats equipped for the disabled in wheelchairs and nine seats for people accompanying them
It’s been three months since a taxi service for disabled people started working in Odessa, Segondya reports. The project took around a year to come to life, with the taxi starting its operation on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, December 3. This idea came to Vitaly Kravchenko, a migrant with special needs who is originally from Donetsk. He moved to Odessa in summer 2014, because of the warfare in the East Ukraine. Back home, the man owned an Internet store, but he had to leave his business behind once the airport got under fire.
“There used to be a taxi service for disabled people in Donetsk capable of carrying one disabled person or a group of wheelchaired passengers. I am currently staying at the Pirogov health resort in Kuyalnik, near Odessa, together with my fellow citizens with special needs. Odessa is a tourist destination having much to offer. But the sea, the theaters and other attractions used to be unavailable for disabled people — not a single taxi in the city could provide us with a vehicle to take several wheelchaired passengers to the city center," — says Vitaly Kravchenko, the owner of the Zabota (care) taxi project.
Vitaly Kravchenko is the author of this idea. The migrant designed the project and tested its benefits himself. Photo: Impact Hub Odessa
He got this project idea during his course at the “Novy otschet” (New Start) business incubator for displaced people that was organized by Ukrainian and foreign philanthropists. Having spent four months on learning about economic principles and marketing tricks, Vitaly submitted his social project for approval by members of Odessa public, business representatives and government officials. The idea earned a substantial organizational and financial support from the incubator partners.
“The hardest thing was to find an investor, as there aren’t many people in the city who are aware of the disabled people’s needs. City bus and taxi drivers often refuse to take such passengers just because they don’t know how to fold the wheelchair, where to put it and how to have the person seated. So I decided to implement this taxi project whereby a driver not only provides transportation for the passenger, but, together with a volunteer, takes them home or to the hospital, helps them ascend the stairs, holds the door for them," — Vitaly Kravchenko explains to Segodnya.
The ramp. This Volkswagen van is equipped with straps and a ramp. Photo: Impact Hub Odessa
Currently one vehicle can accommodate up to seven wheelchairs. The Volkswagen van has four seats equipped for the disabled in wheelchairs and nine seats for people accompanying them. Depending on the number of wheelchairs, regular seats can be removed as required. Besides it has a ramp for an easy loading and straps for securing the wheelchair while the vehicle is moving. The ride in the equipped van costs 150 UAH per hour (the initial fee was 5 UAH/km). That said, a usual taxi ride within Odessa would normally cost 7 UAH/km, which amounts to 420 UAH per a one-hour ride given the city speed limit.
An hourly rate of the accessible taxi is 150 UAH/hour, while the rate for a usual taxi is 420 UAH/hour
“We only have one vehicle at the moment, but we will see the demand grow in summer when tourists will arrive. We offer group discounts, besides we offer free rides to Odessa for disabled children living in the region during winter and summer holidays," — say the project partners while adding that they plan to expand the project by introducing new vehicles. The project gives anyone who used to struggle with moving around the city the opportunity to travel to any place within Odessa or its region with comfort.
CITY BUS DRIVERS ARE JOINING
“Madam Odessa 2016". Natalia Chekhonatskaya taking the taxi after the pageant. Photo: facebook.com
There is a daily demand for the accessible taxi service, there was only a temporary drop in the orders during the January snowfalls. Apart from the displaced people with disabilities, there are 5000 such residents in Odessa today, all of them needing secure and comfortable transportation. In response to the population’s demand, the city authorities have announced a transportation tender for routes within the city. From now on, the city is going to prefer transport companies who provide vehicles accessible by people with special needs.
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