Nothing trumps the independence people with disabilities gain when they purchase their own wheelchair van. It’s easy to freely come and go at any time, and getting in and out of the vehicle can be accomplished far quicker than doing so with a standard vehicle.
For these reasons, wheelchair vans can be spotted all over the roads, but like all car owners who live in a major city, Chicago wheelchair owners sometimes need to rely on public transportation to get around.
That isn’t always the easiest task.
Filling a Gap in the Industry
Although there are a good amount of handicap accessible train stations and cabs, there is a lack of diversity in the companies who offer their services within the market, especially when it comes to ride sharing companies like Uber and Lyft. While Uber has made strides to make itself more accessible by expanding its wheelchair accessibility in Portland, Oregon, many wheelchair users are still feeling left out when it comes to taking advantage of these ridesharing services.
Now, a Paris-based startup is looking to become the first type of company of its kind: a ridesharing service that caters exclusively to people with disabilities.
Discovering A New Opportunity
The idea for Wheeliz, the ridesharing company for people with disabilities, was thought up when Parisian Charlotte de Vilmorin visited Florida and saw how much it would cost to rent a wheelchair van for her ten day trip.
“It’s very difficult to get around when you are in a wheelchair, because public transportation is not accessible… you can’t just grab a cab or rent a regular car,” Mashable quotes Vilmorin as saying.
Her trip to America inspired her to co-found the company, which already operates in the four French cities of Bordeaux, Nantes, Nancy and Paris.
Wheeliz seeks to connect people with disabilities to handicap vehicle owners. While there are many adapted vehicles registered in France, and many other countries around the world, many of them are not constantly in use.
The company contracts the owners and allows them use their vehicles as a taxi-like service dedicated to people with disabilities. Much like Uber and Lyft, drivers are paid for using their vehicle, and Wheeliz takes a percentage of the total fare in exchange for insurance coverage and more.
So far, the company has 120 cars listed with 900 registered users, many of whom are traveling from outside of France on vacations.
Opportunities for All
Not only does this company put more handicap vans on the road for people to use when they need a ride, it also opens up an opportunity for people with disabilities to earn a primary or additional source of income.
While the company still only operates in France, it does have a great opportunity to go global or at least inspire a tech-savvy American entrepreneur to start his or her own business in the US.
What do you think of Wheeliz? Would you use your handicap van as a source of income? Let us know in the comments below.