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An e-rickshaw to get the differently abled moving

Chitra Narayanan New Delhi | Updated on October 04, 2020 Published on October 04, 2020

Kickstart Services....

Collapsible ramp in Bengaluru start-up’s model lets a wheelchair slide in

This month, if all goes to plan, on the roads of Mysuru you will see a specially designed e-rickshaw for people with disabilities.

Developed by Bengaluru-based social enterprise Kickstart Services, the EV is the brainchild of its founders Srikrish Siva and Vidhya Ramasubban, who have been running a cab service for people with disabilities and senior citizens in the city since 2014.

“Although we have operated for more than five years, one issue that has irked us is that we have not served a vast majority of people who are not economically well off,” says Siva, explaining why the duo decided to develop this e-rickshaw.

Accessible transportation

Ramasubban, who has worked in the NGO sector for years, says that there are over three crore people with disabilities in India but there are barely 100 accessible transport vehicles that they can hire. The cost of booking these specially fitted out cars is high.

Only about 15 per cent of those with movement disabilities in India are able to use public transport, unlike developed nations, where over 65 per cent of disabled populations can do so.

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To make accessible transportation mainstream, the duo has developed an e-rickshaw which opens out at the back, with a collapsible ramp for a wheelchair to get in. In addition, the rickshaw, which they have called ‘Kickstart Gati’, has two seats. One charge of the rickshaw would cover 80 km or so. “The cost of operating this e-rickshaw for a driver is less than ₹1 a km,” says Siva. “Our goal was to get to the ride cost on par or lesser than an auto rickshaw ride.”

According to Siva, Kickstart Gati boasts several safety features including safety belts for the wheelchair-using passenger. It has got requisite permissions from the Karnataka government and is being piloted in Mysuru in partnership with an NGO. Next it will be seen in Hubballi, after which the company hopes to sell it pan India, and has initiated talks for the same. It has partnered with a third party manufacturer to build it. The cost of the vehicle is less than an autorickshaw and only slightly more than a normal e-rickshaw.

Idea of inclusivity

But would there be enough rides for an e-rickshaw operator to run such a service viably?

According to Siva, when not in use by a wheelchair passenger, the inclusive vehicle can be used by others, too, as the prototype has provisions for two more foldable seats at the back..

“We believe that if an average citizen is able to share a ride with a wheelchair user, the awareness about the issues that people with disabilities have will become more apparent and will potentially raise discussions about inclusivity,” he says.

The hope is that by removing barriers to transportation they can get wheelchair users to get out more.

 

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Published on October 04, 2020
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