Electric wheelchair tours show Colombian city from new angle, help shed image of drug violence

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Wilson Guzmán misplaced the usage of his legs at age 17 when he was shot within the again whereas making an attempt to get well a stolen bicycle in his hometown of Medellin, Colombia. Twenty years later, he glides by town’s streets utilizing an electrical hand-bike hooked up to the entrance of his wheelchair. He not too long ago gave a tour of Medellin’s parks to seven individuals who adopted him down bike lanes and up steep hills on related autos.

“Each one who will get on these wheelchairs leaves with a smile,” mentioned Guzmán. “Additionally they study what it’s wish to be within the footwear of somebody with a incapacity.”

The wheelchair excursions that Guzman leads as soon as per week are the newest vacationer attraction in a metropolis that’s slowly shedding its fame for drug violence and has change into certainly one of Colombia’s most visited locations.

They’re organized by MATT — which stands for Mobility, Accessibility, Time and Work — a start-up based final 12 months that goals to create jobs for individuals with disabilities.

For the equal of $25, each individuals who can and might’t stroll can get on the electrical wheelchairs and take the three-hour tour of town’s riverside parks, which incorporates stops at a espresso store and a bar that does beer tasting. The gadgets speed up shortly and might attain speeds of 30 kph (19 mph).

ALSO SEE | PHOTOS: Electrical wheelchair excursions present Colombian metropolis from unique approach

“We predict this might be a successful proposal by way of training and inclusion,” mentioned firm founder Martín Londoño.

The excursions began in October and their routes are nonetheless being adjusted. Londoño mentioned he wished to supply them earlier this 12 months however needed to delay the launch as a result of coronavirus pandemic and journey restrictions imposed by the Colombian authorities, which had been lifted in September.

The hand-cycles, constructed and designed with the assistance of native bike workshops, are powered by rechargeable batteries and latch on to wheelchairs with steel bars and hooks. The steering and brakes are like these on an everyday bicycle, whereas accelerating solely requires pushing a button on one of many handles.

Londoño, 31, began to work on the hand-cycles 4 years in the past to enhance his personal mobility. He misplaced the usage of his legs after breaking his spinal chord in a visitors accident at age 18.

Londoño took inspiration from Batec, a Spanish firm that makes electrical hand-bikes and sells them for between 4,000 and 6,000 euros. He wished to make a model that was extra reasonably priced for individuals in Colombia, the place the minimal wage is about $250 a month.

After a number of makes an attempt, Londoño managed to construct a useful hand-bike for himself, however his efforts to promote them for round $2,000 weren’t profitable.

“We realized that most individuals with disabilities in Colombia have very meager incomes,” mentioned Londoño, who grew up in a rich neighborhood of Medellin and graduated from a world college. “They don’t have any employment and lots of can’t even afford an everyday wheelchair.”

Londoño modified his enterprise mannequin and based MATT. Together with his financial savings and people of his enterprise companions, Londoño has constructed a fleet of 15 hand-cycles. Three of them have been leased to individuals with disabilities who work for a supply service arrange by MATT this 12 months.

Londoño expenses the supply staff a month-to-month charge of $90 and says they are going to be allowed to maintain the hand-bikes as soon as they’ve paid for them.

MATT makes use of the remaining hand-bikes for its wheelchair tour, which continues to be in its early days and should compete in opposition to extra well-known points of interest, together with excursions of locations related to drug lord Pablo Escobar, a museum that includes the works of artist Fernando Botero and a cable automobile that ascends a steep mountain to a pristine cloud forest.

Londoño says he’s making an attempt to advertise his tour on social media whereas constructing partnerships with native journey firms. He desires of taking the wheelchair excursions to different cities in Colombia, Latin America and the US.

“That is one other technique to present how our metropolis is altering” mentioned Valeria Toro, a Medellin journey agent who desires to record it on choices for journey firms abroad. “It’s an expertise that persons are not more likely to overlook after they return dwelling.”

(This story has been printed from a wire company feed with out modifications to the textual content. Solely the headline has been modified.)

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