Social Taxi Project is a joint initiative of Charitable Foundation Caritas Khmelnytsky, NGO “World without Barriers” and volunteers. The bus, equipped for comfortable transportation of people with disabilities, runs through the city roots. The new service will be available for every person in need and for now is free to all.
The main goal of the Social Taxi Project is a social rehabilitation of people with disabilities, their mobility, free communication, and active interaction with the city. After nearly six-month trial period the service is made available to the persons in need. From Monday to Friday disabled people can order the bus to get to the necessary location.
“The most requested locations are meetings, cultural events and, of course, hospital, clinic, and the dentist’s. Recently, our passengers ask about long-distance travels. We really want to give them the opportunity to expand geography and to see new places”- said Dmytro Kozlovskyy, head of the project in Caritas Khmelnytsky.
The bus of Social Taxi Project is equipped with a hydraulic system that is a special dynamic platform allowing passengers to get in gradually, even without getting up from the wheelchair. Volunteers are experienced Caritas workers that help people with disabilities to feel comfortable in the bus and provide them reliable support during the trip. The bus provides two levels of security, heating system, air conditioning and TV. The social taxi can transport simultaneously 5 people with disabilities and 10 attendants.
During trial period, the longest social taxi ride was 35 km. The passenger, who made the order, lives in the suburbs. For the first time in his life he visited Khmelnytsky. To mark this event, Caritas prepared him a special gift – a city tour from Caritas workers. Until this trip it seemed for him completely impossible, because public transport is inaccessible for people with disabilities. They have difficulties with getting into the cabin, there is not enough space for a wheelchair, besides suburban buses are usually overwhelmed and have insufficient depreciation.
Before the start of the project in Khmelnytsky, there was carefully studied successful experience in this field in other Ukrainian cities – Vinnytsia, Sumy, Kyiv, Zhytomyr. A particular feature of the project in Khmelnytsky is that the service is available for free. It is achieved with a help of volunteers and the local government, which funded the fuel. Caritas Khmelnitsky provided bus and personnel.
Project was inspired by Khmelnytsky athletes with disabilities. They have created their own boccia team and intend to represent Ukraine at the Paralympics. They searched for a bus for their training meetings and as a result caused the city project of mutual aid. The effectiveness of social taxi was proved with the first gathering of athletes – 40 people present instead of usual 10-15.
Coordinators of social taxi in Khmelnytsky are convinced that the project has potential and should be expanded. They plan to prepare at least three more minibuses and make transport service available around the clock. Within the transport roots, they want to point out not only medical locations, but also cultural institutions, shopping centers, and all important objects of the city. Managers hope that it will serve not only for medical purposes, when a visit to a doctor is the only way to get out of home, but also this improvement will help to make project more social, and integrate people in city life.
The Social Taxi Project demonstrates the needs of the people in wheelchairs, walker canes, and crutches. Those wishing to help with the project or to volunteer we kindly ask to contact the Charitable Foundation Caritas Khmelnytsky. Caritas convinced that people with disabilities become the most active part of the city society if only to release them from imprisonment in four walls.