Assisting those in need

Assisting those in need

Uber has launched a new service in Thailand to transport the elderly and those with disabilities

UberASSIST's drivers are now equipped with better skills to assist passengers with physical, hearing and visual impairments. Uber Thailand
UberASSIST's drivers are now equipped with better skills to assist passengers with physical, hearing and visual impairments. Uber Thailand

People with disabilities now have new assistance to take to the road. Taxi service Uber has launched uberASSIST for elderly passengers and disabled people.

Thailand has become the first country in Asean, and the 11th in the world, where uberASSIST has been introduced.

UberASSIST has been launched in partnership with Transportation For All (T4A), an organisation which provides training for Uber's driver-partners on how to assist those with access needs. UberASSIST's drivers are now equipped with better skills to assist passengers with physical, hearing and visual impairments.

Saowalak Thongkuay, head of Disabled Peoples' International Asia-Pacific Region (DPI-AP), and a member of the T4A network, said Thailand is well equipped to accommodate basic transportation for its citizens. However, there are a number of barriers that limit travel options for some people. Not all train stations have lifts or ramps, while buses are impossible for wheelchair users and elderly people.

T4A's mission is to improve public transport for people with disabilities, elderly people and everyone who needs better access in order to enable them to live their lives to the fullest.

Some disabled people believe that while there are ordinary and shared taxi services available, these are not sufficient. People with disabilities still face both unprofessional services and sometimes discrimination.

"Most of us know how frustrating it is when the driver says he can't take you because the car is running out of gas. Sometimes he needs to return the car. Or actually he prefers foreign passengers who he thinks pay more. People with disabilities face problems with disrespectful treatment. Passengers are not accepted because they are seen as a burden, a difficulty or even bad luck," said Sawang Srisom, T4A secretary, a disabled person who uses a wheelchair.

Uber's technology allows passengers to know their driver and vehicle details, estimate their arrival time, view their estimated fares before taking a trip, and allow them to stay in contact with their families throughout the ride through the "share my trip function".

UberASSIST is not an ambulance service but is a new choice for passengers in need of assistance during their daily travels, whether they have special needs or are elderly passengers.

There are 1.8 million people with disabilities and 12 million elderly people in Thailand. In market terms, this is a huge segment to capture.

Siripa Jungsawat, general manager of Uber Thailand, said the number of elderly people and those with disabilities in Thailand are increasing.

"Travel is essential to everyone, but not everyone is able to travel with ease," she said. "UberASSIST showcases how innovative ideas benefit our society and provide passengers with greater choice and control in their day-to-day activities."

In the early stages of the launch, requesting an uberASSIST car may take slightly longer as the system searches for the nearest car. Fares will remain the same as requesting an uberX or uberFLASH vehicle.

The service is now available in Bangkok. Initially, there are around 39 uberASSIST drivers and the number will keep on increasing. UberASSIST charges the same as a regular uberX ride.

All uberASSIST drivers have a high rating and have completed over 100 trips. Their vehicles are able to accommodate foldable wheelchairs, said the Uber executive.

Passengers using assistive devices or equipment such as foldable wheelchairs, walkers or riders who are visually impaired can notify their driver partner before the trip (drivers cannot lift, carry or act as a caretaker for the rider).

Riders can request an uberASSIST for friends or family members. Contact staff with any further questions at t.uber.com/assistthai.

To use uberASSIST, download the Uber app and input your pick up point and destination. Tap uberASSIST and request a ride and prepare for pick up, then ask for any special assistance by calling or message the partner driver via the app.

Thailand has become the first country in Asean where uberASSIST has been introduced. Photos courtesy of Uber Thailand

Just input your pick up point and destination, tap uberASSIST and request a ride. Uber Thailand

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