Uber launches new service for disabled and elderly passengers
Uber launches feature to help disabled and elderly passengers
Car-hire application Uber launched a new feature to help disabled passengers and the elderly yesterday.
They can now use uberASSIST to arrange for drivers, who are specially trained to help, to pick them up.
It is set up in partnership with the Disabled People's Association (DPA) and consultancy firm LevelField, and is supported by the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre.
Passengers have to unlock the uberASSIST option by entering the code "ASSISTSG", set their location and request a ride — at no additional charges.
Paying for rides on uberASSIST is no different from Uber — payments can be made using credit and debit cards or PayPal.
UberASSIST is about 15 to 20 per cent cheaper than normal taxis. Surge pricing, where the price goes up because demand is high, is still applicable.
UberASSIST is the first of its kind in Asia, although it has been used in other countries such as the US, the UK and Australia.
Southeast Asia Uber's general manager Chan Park said the company decided to roll out uberASSIST in Singapore to meet the needs of the disabled and the elderly here.
Citing statistics from the National Council of Social Service, Mr Park said that more than 110,000 Singaporeans have some form of disability and only about 40 per cent of existing MRT stations are fitted with extra lifts to improve accessibility.
"I'm really excited to build this up and make this a reliable product for everyone who needs it," he said.
UberASSIST has 50 to 70 drivers on its programme.
These top-rated drivers were handpicked and approached by Uber to be trained on a voluntary basis.
They attended a one-day programme conducted by LevelField, where consultants trained them on things like how to transfer a disabled person in and out of a vehicle, how to fold a wheelchair and the best way to guide a disabled person.
According to a feedback session conducted by the DPA, one main issue raised by the disabled was that paths between offices and MRT stations are sometimes not easily accessible to them and may lack amenities such as shelters.
"UberASSIST caters to a growing number of customers with mobility issues and gives the disabled better and more varied transport options," said Dr Marissa Lee Medjeral-Mills, executive director of DPA.
National para-athlete Theresa Goh, 28, said that in the past, she experienced one in 20 taxi drivers who would reject her and drive off when they saw her in a wheelchair.
"Some taxi drivers stay in their cabs and assume that I can help myself. But with uberASSIST drivers, they'll be there to help for sure," said Ms Goh.
"I think this is a good initiative, but I hope more can be done for those in motorised wheelchairs.
"Most of them cannot transfer out of the chairs, which limits their travel options."
But Ms Jane Loh, 37, who has a home-based job in administration, said that she does not see a need for uberASSIST even though she is wheelchair-bound.
"I'm an independent traveller and use the MRT often, so I've never used Uber before because normal cabs work just fine for me," she explained.
Passengers can book an uberASSIST ride on their smartphones through the Uber app or by going to Uber's website at m.uber.com
"Some taxi drivers stay in their cabs and assume that I can help myself. But with uberASSIST drivers, they'll be there to help for sure."
- National para-athlete Theresa Goh