Awesome Humans 14 Mar
Why I'm starting an accessible rideshare company
By Barney Koneferenisi
Barney Koneferenisi is a Paralympian and member of the New Zealand Wheelchair Rugby team known as the Wheelblacks; outside of sport Barney has been working on a start-up accessible rideshare company; here is his story about why he decided to start the business.
Requesting a ride has now become super easy; you pull out your smartphone and open your Uber or Didi APP, and with a touch of a button, your driver is on the way.
But for the disabled, it’s not that easy. We must go through multiple steps like pre-booking the night before to constantly hassling the driver/company to check on your ride when they haven’t shown up 30 mins later that day. Even when the driver does show up, we must be mentally ready in case they cancel on the spot when they see us or berate us during the ride.
The situation for women isn’t any better, with female passengers constantly being harassed on different public transport platforms to being sexually assaulted by private rideshare drivers. And no matter how many times these companies get taken to court, the outcome will always be the same as these corporate giants have millions of dollars to counter these cases.
So instead of wasting energy into pushing these cases, we decided to put that same energy into building our own service catering to those underserved and most at-risk markets. In the beginning of the year, we released a survey just to see how bad the issue was, and the results we had gotten back were shocking.
Over 79% of respondents had been turned down a ride because of their disability, and close to 70% of women had been assaulted by these drivers, and it took movements like My Body My Choice and #MeToo to get those voices heard.
Seeing these results has really given us the boost we needed to start this service. To combat this, we are looking to fill the gap in Accessible Vehicles by having a large availability of special vans and solving the issue with safety for women by having a special sector that only sends out female drivers to female passengers when selected.
While it all sounds easy and straightforward, the entire process can be challenging, but the people we have met along the way have made it all so worth it and to think about all the lives that we will be changing along the way makes it a lot better.
In the long run, we are hoping to create an already overdue service and generate a larger conversation at the same time. We all matter.
Barney hopes to launch Safe Rides towards the end of 2022. Help him bring Safe Rides to life. This givealittle page was created by Barney to help purchase the Wheelchair Accessible Van with the hoist installed aswell as get the APP developed with all the extra features that need to go in. By donating to this page, you are helping them get one step closer to their ultimate dream and that is to make transport accessible to everyone of all abilities! Click here to contribute.
You can follow Barney's journey here.
All image credits: (Barney Koneferenisi, 2021)