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Recognising the champions of disability rights

Mon, 08/13/2018 - 11:22 -- geeta.nair

Four activists from Mumbai will be awarded for their consistent efforts to make basic services accessible to persons with disabilities

Mumbai: For four Mumbaikars, years of hard work to ensure accessibility for persons with disabilities have finally paid off. They have figured in a list of 14 winners for this year’s Mphasis Universal Design Awards, instituted by the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People, an NGO.

As they gear up to receive the awards on August 14 in New Delhi, The Hindu speaks to the four on what drove them to champion the cause:

Romeo Ravva, 42

The daily challenges faced by a close friend’s sister, who was a wheelchair user, inspired Mr. Ravva to think of an innovation that could help wheelchair users travel comfortably.

“My friend’s sister had all the means to get help. But I wondered about the struggle faced by the disabled who don’t have the means,” says Mr. Ravva, co-founder and director of Ezy Mov Solution Pvt. Ltd, India’s first wheelchair taxi service, which was started in 2015.

The very first Ezy Mov taxi was a modified ambulance fitted with hydraulic lift imported from Italy. “Later on, we modified a Tata Venture and increased its height slightly so that a wheelchair user could fit in comfortably,” Mr. Ravva says, adding they currently have a fleet of over 15 such taxis.

The current service is slightly on the expensive side. However, Mr. Ravva and his partners are working on a new fleet of taxis which can run at cheaper fares. “We are designing our own hydraulic lifts. This will help us bring down the cost,” he says. They are also helping in modifying other individual cars for wheelchair users.

Bandra resident and wheelchair user Neenu Kewlani uses Ezy Mov. “There are different categories of people using wheelchair. For me, who is completely immobile, services like Ezy Mov are helpful as their drivers are trained, the cars have hydraulic lifts and safety locks as well. It makes me independent and I feel safe using the service,” Ms. Kewlani, 47, says.

The only drawback is the cost factor. “For example, an app-based service costs ₹130 to ₹180 while Ezy Mov costs ₹200 to ₹230 for a similar distance. But Ezy Mov is reliable. So I keep going back to them,” she says.

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