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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 September 2006, 16:30 GMT 17:30 UK
Mumbai to get disabled taxi service
Monica Chadha
BBC News, Mumbai

Special taxi for disabled people
The foundation spent seven months looking for a vehicle
Disabled people in India's financial capital, Mumbai(Bombay), are at last going to find it easier to move around as the city is to have a special taxi service just for them.

A non-governmental group, the Fulora Foundation, plans to launch 20 modified cars as taxis for both long and short distances.

The foundation's managing trustee, Arun Sabnis, conceived the idea during his travels abroad when he saw specially designed cars for the disabled and realised there was no such facility in India.

The service is due to start in mid-September, initially in and around Mumbai, but Mr Sabnis hopes to expand it as demand grows.


Mr Sabnis said he first saw a taxi service for disabled people during a visit to London about three years ago.

Arun Sabnis
Mr Sabnis says the service is not aimed at making profits

"At the airport there I saw special vehicles for the physically challenged. After London I travelled to Amsterdam and there, too, I saw similar vehicles.

"I realised that the disabled in India do not have any mode of transport and decided to introduce it here."

The foundation primarily focuses on improving neglected infrastructure in Mumbai. Its latest project is to improve the taxi service in the city.

The special cabs are part of this venture.

Mr Sabnis said they got a designer to work on a car that would be "disabled-friendly" and spent seven months scouting for one in the market that would suit their purpose.

He said they also visited the All India Institute of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (AIIPMR) in Mumbai and spoke to doctors and patients there to get their suggestions on what they should include in the car to make it easily accessible and comfortable for the disabled.

24-hour service

The vehicle, a mid-sized car (Maruti Versa) already available in the market, has been modified based on their recommendations.

It is extremely heart-warming that someone has finally thought of us
Disabled Rights Group convenor Javed Abidi

"They suggested we have a wheelchair lock system in the car so that when the vehicle is in motion, the wheelchair remains stationary," Mr Sabnis said.

"They also said we should have a seat next to the wheelchair to accommodate an attendant or a person accompanying the passenger. We have incorporated all of this in the taxi."

A foldable ramp has also been built in to allow the wheelchair to roll up easily into the car.

Mr Sabnis said if requested, a medical attendant would also be sent to accompany the passenger.

The taxi service will be available 24 hours, seven days a week and a person can order a cab by email, fax, phone or text message.

"The most important aspect of this service is that the rates will be the same as a regular cab. We will not be charging an extra dime for the additional services we provide," Mr Sabnis said.

'Invisible minority'

It cost the foundation about 1.2m rupees ($26,000) to make each modified vehicle and Mr Sabnis said they are not concerned about breaking even in this venture.

Special taxi for disabled people
The 24-hour service can be booked via e-mail, call or text message

"We are not looking at profits here," he said. "It's a service we are trying to provide to society."

Disabled Rights Group convenor Javed Abidi said: "It is extremely heart-warming that someone has finally thought of us."

He said 5-6% of India's billion-plus population were thought to be disabled - about 60m people - yet no one was looking at their needs.

"The most basic thing that we disabled people lack in India is easy access to anything and any place. That's why we are called the invisible minority because we never move out of our homes."

Mr Abidi also said while some wheelchair users, like himself, manage to use regular cabs, many others with severe disabilities have no choice but to remain confined to their homes.

He said with this service, at least now they can think of getting out of their homes and travelling - something most people take for granted.

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