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Accessibility is Everyone's Business

In this month's column we hear from Social Innovator and Wheelchairtaxi.ie founder Stephen Cluskey. Bluebird Care has teamed up with Stephen to raise awareness of, and help increase capacity for, accessible transport in Ireland.

Stephen Cluskey profile photo

By Stephen Cluskey, founder of Wheelchairtaxi.ie

Have you ever struggled to find wheelchair accessible transport?

This is a major problem not just in Ireland but worldwide and something that I am determined to change. I am a wheelchair user myself since I was injured just over 10 years ago and have always had problems trying to find suitable transport.

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In 2012 I established Wheelchairtaxi.ie with the aim of solving this problem. The site is a ‘one-stop shop’ which brings all forms of wheelchair accessible transport together in one place.

This includes taxis, car hire, minibus hire, coach hire, community transport schemes and wheelchair accessible boats. We have been in operation since last September growing steadily and are already the number one used resource in Ireland for all forms of wheelchair accessible transport.

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The site was only live one month and we were nominated for an Eircom spider award in Ireland's best listings category against heavy hitters like myhome.ie and mydealpage which was a great privilege.

We are also associated with great organisations like the Irish Wheelchair Association, Spinal Injuries Ireland and the Disabled Drivers Association of Ireland to name but a few. Bluebird care recognised early on the very real positive impact that this social enterprise will have on people's lives and communities all over Ireland and have been excellent in their support.

With their backing we hope to develop the mobile phone application to complement the site giving users the ability to find suitable transport on the go and this is essential for increasing our impact.

Many disabled people have limited finger dexterity so a simple to use app will also help in this regard. We hope for a long and mutually beneficial relationship with Bluebird care who already provide great services for disabled people and this could be seen as an extension of that.

Wheelchairtaxi.ie has been working hard on the advocacy side of things also over the past few months and this will continue for the foreseeable future. We are looking to boost wheelchair taxi numbers in Ireland and reverse the trend that has seen countless drivers and vehicles drop out of the industry.

The main problems include the price of entry into the market with a wheelchair accessible taxi costing in the region of €50,000, the cost of bringing a vehicle up to new European regulations, the lack of standards and training in the industry and some drivers not taking wheelchair passengers.

We have some very viable solutions to these problems and hope that the government will take many, if not all of them on board. Lots of challenges ahead but we will continue to try to ‘drive social change’.

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