Riding around in style

Riding around in style

A company provides a comfortable new taxi service for passengers in wheelchairs

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Steve So Wing-Tung takes a ride in a diamond cab car
Steve So Wing-Tung takes a ride in a diamond cab car
Photo: Olivia Tsang
When you call Diamond Cab, the first thing the operator will ask isn't where you want to go; it's your height and weight.

Diamond Cab is a social enterprise that provides transportation for wheelchair users. While handling a booking, the company needs to know the height and weight of a disabled passenger to make sure the wheelchair fits in the taxi. Passengers should weigh 200kg or less, and be taller than 1.3m.

Diamond Cab's taxis are painted red and have meters like regular taxis. But the similarity ends there. The company's vehicles have been specially customised in Japan for wheelchair users. The cars are the size of seven-seaters and are equipped with an inclined plane for rolling wheelchairs in and out.

Late last month, Young Post invited Steve So Wing-tung, a student using a wheelchair, to check out the new cab. Steve decided to take a ride from his home in Hang Hau to the Hong Kong Coliseum in Hung Hom to see a concert.

Steve, 23, studies at the Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education and is a member of the Direction Association for the Handicapped. Steve lost his ability to walk in 2005, after a nasty fall beside a swimming pool in Singapore.

"I first learned about [Diamond Cab] from an online forum," he says. "I immediately signed up as a member for the service. I wish there were more companies like Diamond Cab. In Hong Kong, the MTR and buses are the only forms of public transportation for wheelchair users. We need more."

The company's drivers are specially trained to help wheelchair users. They have learned to operate various wheelchair models.

During Steve's trip, the first task for the driver was to load him into the cab. After lowering the inclined plane, the driver pulled out two belts from the car and hooked them to Steve's wheelchair. A special pulley system, which the driver can operate by remote control, then pulled the wheelchair up the inclined plane into the car. The driver strapped Steve in with two seatbelts to keep him steady.

We were ready to go.

"It is very spacious," Steve says of the car. "Unlike with hired cars from the Hong Kong Society of Rehabilitation, I don't have to duck [when getting in]. I haven't used a taxi since I became wheelchair-bound. It's great: I can finally take a taxi!"

Steve says it would have taken much longer to reach his destination by MTR. "I would need to go from Hang Hau to Tiu Keng Leng to Kowloon Tong and finally to Hung Hom. I'd need to switch trains twice. The trip takes an hour and 15 minutes."

It took Steve only half an hour to get there by taxi. The trip cost HK$400.

"It was a smooth and steady ride," he says. "I did not swing to the side, even when the vehicle made a sharp turn. The car has plenty of space - enough for two more [able-bodied] passengers."

He adds happily: "This is great for my family. Now we can all go out together!"

For more details about Diamond Cab, visit www.diamondcab.com.hk

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