Electric wheelchair excursions present Colombian town from new angle

MEDELLIN, Colombia – Wilson Guzmán shed the use of his legs at age 17 when he was shot in the again though making an attempt to recover a stolen bicycle in his hometown of Medellin, Colombia.

Two decades later, he glides as a result of the city’s streets employing an electric hand-bike hooked up to the front of his wheelchair. He not long ago gave a tour of Medellin’s parks to seven persons who adopted him down bike lanes and up steep hills on comparable automobiles.

“Every human being who will get on these wheelchairs leaves with a smile,” reported Guzmán. “They also discover what it is like to be in the footwear of an individual with a incapacity.”

The wheelchair excursions that Guzman potential customers when a 7 days are the hottest tourist attraction in a city that is slowly and gradually shedding its standing for drug violence and has come to be one of Colombia’s most visited destinations.

They are structured by MATT — which stands for Mobility, Accessibility, Time and Operate — a start out-up founded previous calendar year that aims to generate careers for individuals with disabilities.

For the equal of $25, equally individuals who can and simply cannot wander can get on the electric wheelchairs and take the a few-hour tour of the city’s riverside parks, which consists of stops at a coffee store and a bar that does beer tasting. The devices speed up quickly and can get to speeds of 30 kph (19 mph).

“We believe this will be a successful proposal in conditions of education and learning and inclusion,” claimed company founder Martín Londoño.

The excursions begun in October and their routes are still being modified. Londoño stated he preferred to offer them previously this yr but had to hold off the start thanks to the coronavirus pandemic and journey constraints imposed by the Colombian authorities, which ended up lifted in September.

The hand-cycles, created and made with the support of area bicycle workshops, are run by rechargeable batteries and latch on to wheelchairs with steel bars and hooks. The steering and brakes are like people on a frequent bicycle, even though accelerating only calls for pushing a button on a person of the handles.

Londoño, 31, begun to do the job on the hand-cycles 4 years in the past to enhance his very own mobility. He shed the use of his legs right after breaking his spinal chord in a targeted traffic accident at age 18.

Londoño took inspiration from Batec, a Spanish enterprise that can make electric hand-bikes and sells them for between 4,000 and 6,000 euros. He wished to make a model that was far more cost-effective for folks in Colombia, in which the minimum amount wage is about $250 a thirty day period.

Just after quite a few attempts, Londoño managed to establish a practical hand-bicycle for himself, but his endeavours to promote them for all around $2,000 weren’t thriving.

“We recognized that most people today with disabilities in Colombia have very meagre incomes,” mentioned Londoño, who grew up in a rich neighbourhood of Medellin and graduated from an international college. “They have no employment and quite a few just cannot even find the money for a normal wheelchair.”

Londoño adjusted his small business design and started MATT. With his financial savings and all those of his company associates, Londoño has crafted a fleet of 15 hand-cycles. Three of them have been leased to men and women with disabilities who work for a supply services established up by MATT this calendar year.

Londoño expenses the delivery employees a monthly price of $90 and says they will be permitted to hold the hand-bikes as soon as they have paid for them.

MATT takes advantage of the remaining hand-bikes for its wheelchair tour, which is still in its early times and will have to compete versus more famed sights, which include tours of areas connected with drug lord Pablo Escobar, a museum that includes the operates of artist Fernando Botero and a cable vehicle that ascends a steep mountain to a pristine cloud forest.



Londoño says he is making an attempt to boost his tour on social media even though developing partnerships with community travel providers. He goals of taking the wheelchair tours to other towns in Colombia, Latin The usa and the United States.

“This is one more way to exhibit how our town is changing” explained Valeria Toro, a Medellin travel agent who wants to checklist it on offerings for journey firms abroad. “It’s an encounter that men and women are not probably to forget immediately after they go back property.”