Electrical wheelchair excursions display Colombian town from new angle

MEDELLIN, Colombia (AP) — Wilson Guzmán lost the use of his legs at age 17 when he was shot in the back although making an attempt to recover a stolen bicycle in his hometown of Medellin, Colombia.

Two a long time later, he glides by means of the city’s streets utilizing an electrical hand-bike hooked up to the entrance of his wheelchair. He lately gave a tour of Medellin’s parks to seven individuals who followed him down bike lanes and up steep hills on similar motor vehicles.

“Every particular person who gets on these wheelchairs leaves with a smile,” said Guzmán. “They also learn what it’s like to be in the footwear of somebody with a disability.”

The wheelchair excursions that Guzman prospects once a 7 days are the most recent tourist attraction in a town that is little by little shedding its popularity for drug violence and has turn out to be one of Colombia’s most frequented locations.

They are arranged by MATT — which stands for Mobility, Accessibility, Time and Do the job — a start-up established previous year that aims to produce employment for people today with disabilities.

For the equal of $25, both equally folks who can and can’t stroll can get on the electric wheelchairs and just take the 3-hour tour of the city’s riverside parks, which involves stops at a espresso shop and a bar that does beer tasting. The equipment accelerate speedily and can reach speeds of 30 kph (19 mph).

“We think this will be a successful proposal in terms of schooling and inclusion,” mentioned corporation founder Martín Londoño.

The tours started out in Oct and their routes are however being adjusted. Londoño reported he wished to offer them earlier this calendar year but experienced to delay the start because of to the coronavirus pandemic and journey constraints imposed by the Colombian governing administration, which had been lifted in September.

The hand-cycles, developed and designed with the help of neighborhood bicycle workshops, are driven by rechargeable batteries and latch on to wheelchairs with metallic bars and hooks. The steering and brakes are like those people on a normal bicycle, while accelerating only involves pushing a button on a person of the handles.

Londoño, 31, started to get the job done on the hand-cycles 4 many years ago to make improvements to his personal mobility. He missing the use of his legs soon after breaking his spinal chord in a targeted traffic accident at age 18.

Londoño took inspiration from Batec, a Spanish firm that makes electric powered hand-bikes and sells them for in between 4,000 and 6,000 euros. He required to make a variation that was more affordable for folks in Colombia, exactly where the bare minimum wage is about $250 a month.

Right after various makes an attempt, Londoño managed to build a practical hand-bicycle for himself, but his endeavours to promote them for all over $2,000 were not successful.

“We understood that most folks with disabilities in Colombia have really meager incomes,” stated Londoño, who grew up in a wealthy neighborhood of Medellin and graduated from an intercontinental school. “They have no work and numerous cannot even pay for a typical wheelchair.”

Londoño improved his small business design and established MATT. With his price savings and these of his company partners, Londoño has developed a fleet of 15 hand-cycles. 3 of them have been leased to people with disabilities who work for a shipping and delivery service set up by MATT this calendar year.

Londoño costs the supply personnel a regular monthly payment of $90 and states they will be permitted to hold the hand-bikes once they have compensated for them.

MATT uses the remaining hand-bikes for its wheelchair tour, which is however in its early days and will have to compete against a lot more well-known sights, including tours of sites affiliated with drug lord Pablo Escobar, a museum that includes the performs of artist Fernando Botero and a cable car that ascends a steep mountain to a pristine cloud forest.

Londoño suggests he is seeking to promote his tour on social media whilst creating partnerships with neighborhood journey corporations. He goals of having the wheelchair tours to other metropolitan areas in Colombia, Latin The usa and the United States.

“This is a different way to clearly show how our metropolis is changing” stated Valeria Toro, a Medellin vacation agent who wishes to checklist it on offerings for travel organizations abroad. “It’s an practical experience that individuals are not very likely to forget after they go back household.”