Electrical wheelchair excursions exhibit 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 again even though trying to recover a stolen bicycle in his hometown of Medellin, Colombia.

Two a long time later, he glides through the city’s streets working with an electrical hand-bike attached to the front of his wheelchair. He recently gave a tour of Medellin’s parks to seven people today who followed him down bike lanes and up steep hills on identical automobiles.

“Every individual who will get on these wheelchairs leaves with a smile,” explained Guzmán. “They also discover what it’s like to be in the sneakers of someone with a disability.”

The wheelchair excursions that Guzman qualified prospects when a week are the newest vacationer attraction in a town that is little by little shedding its reputation for drug violence and has turn into 1 of Colombia’s most frequented places.

They’re organized by MATT — which stands for Mobility, Accessibility, Time and Get the job done — a commence-up launched final year that aims to build work opportunities for people with disabilities.

For the equal of $25, both persons who can and are unable to walk can get on the electric powered wheelchairs and choose the three-hour tour of the city’s riverside parks, which includes stops at a coffee store and a bar that does beer tasting. The units accelerate speedily and can achieve speeds of 30 kph (19 mph).

“We feel this will be a winning proposal in phrases of training and inclusion,” explained company founder Martín Londoño.

The tours commenced in October and their routes are nonetheless remaining modified. Londoño stated he preferred to offer you them previously this 12 months but experienced to delay the launch thanks to the coronavirus pandemic and travel restrictions imposed by the Colombian govt, which were lifted in September.

The hand-cycles, crafted and made with the support of nearby bicycle workshops, are powered by rechargeable batteries and latch on to wheelchairs with steel bars and hooks. The steering and brakes are like all those on a standard bicycle, when accelerating only calls for pushing a button on one particular of the handles.

Londoño, 31, started to do the job on the hand-cycles four yrs ago to make improvements to his possess mobility. He shed the use of his legs right after breaking his spinal chord in a site visitors accident at age 18.

Londoño took inspiration from Batec, a Spanish company that makes electric hand-bikes and sells them for between 4,000 and 6,000 euros. He needed to make a model that was extra economical for people in Colombia, in which the minimum wage is about $250 a month.

Just after several makes an attempt, Londoño managed to establish a purposeful hand-bike for himself, but his initiatives to provide them for all over $2,000 were not thriving.

“We understood that most individuals with disabilities in Colombia have extremely meager incomes,” said Londoño, who grew up in a rich neighborhood of Medellin and graduated from an global college. “They have no employment and lots of can not even find the money for a frequent wheelchair.”

Londoño altered his organization design and founded MATT. With his discounts and these of his company companions, Londoño has constructed a fleet of 15 hand-cycles. Three of them have been leased to individuals with disabilities who do the job for a shipping and delivery provider set up by MATT this yr.

Londoño rates the shipping personnel a month-to-month charge of $90 and suggests they will be permitted to preserve the hand-bikes as soon as they have compensated for them.

MATT utilizes the remaining hand-bikes for its wheelchair tour, which is still in its early days and will have to contend from much more popular sights, together with tours of locations associated with drug lord Pablo Escobar, a museum featuring the works of artist Fernando Botero and a cable vehicle that ascends a steep mountain to a pristine cloud forest.

Londoño claims he is making an attempt to encourage his tour on social media though building partnerships with local vacation providers. He goals of getting the wheelchair excursions to other towns in Colombia, Latin The us and the United States.

“This is a different way to exhibit how our city is changing” reported Valeria Toro, a Medellin vacation agent who wishes to record it on offerings for journey organizations overseas. “It’s an working experience that men and women are not probable to forget after they go back again house.”