Electrical wheelchair tours exhibit Colombian city from new angle

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

Two many years later, he glides by means of the city’s streets employing an electric hand-bicycle attached to the front of his wheelchair. He just lately gave a tour of Medellin’s parks to 7 men and women who adopted him down bicycle lanes and up steep hills on identical autos.

“Every particular person who receives on these wheelchairs leaves with a smile,” explained Guzmán. “They also study what it really is like to be in the shoes of an individual with a incapacity.”

The wheelchair tours that Guzman leads once a week are the most up-to-date vacationer attraction in a town that is slowly shedding its status for drug violence and has turn out to be a single of Colombia’s most frequented places.

They are organized by MATT — which stands for Mobility, Accessibility, Time and Function — a begin-up launched past year that aims to build jobs for people today with disabilities.

For the equivalent of $25, both men and women who can and are unable to wander can get on the electrical wheelchairs and just take the a few-hour tour of the city’s riverside parks, which includes stops at a espresso shop and a bar that does beer tasting. The equipment speed up speedily and can attain speeds of 30 kph (19 mph).

“We feel this will be a winning proposal in conditions of education and learning and inclusion,” claimed corporation founder Martín Londoño.

The excursions started out in Oct and their routes are nonetheless currently being altered. Londoño mentioned he wished to present them earlier this 12 months but had to hold off the launch owing to the coronavirus pandemic and travel limits imposed by the Colombian governing administration, which ended up lifted in September.

The hand-cycles, developed and built with the help of local bicycle workshops, are powered by rechargeable batteries and latch on to wheelchairs with metal bars and hooks. The steering and brakes are like those on a normal bicycle, though accelerating only calls for pushing a button on a single of the handles.

Londoño, 31, begun to do the job on the hand-cycles 4 a long time ago to make improvements to his own mobility. He dropped the use of his legs after breaking his spinal chord in a targeted traffic incident at age 18.

Londoño took inspiration from Batec, a Spanish corporation that makes electrical hand-bikes and sells them for involving 4,000 and 6,000 euros. He wanted to make a model that was more reasonably priced for people today in Colombia, where by the least wage is about $250 a thirty day period.

Soon after various attempts, Londoño managed to build a useful hand-bike for himself, but his endeavours to offer them for all around $2,000 were not thriving.

“We realized that most persons with disabilities in Colombia have pretty meager incomes,” explained Londoño, who grew up in a wealthy community of Medellin and graduated from an worldwide university. “They have no work and numerous won’t be able to even afford a typical wheelchair.”

Londoño improved his small business design and founded MATT. With his cost savings and people of his business enterprise partners, Londoño has built a fleet of 15 hand-cycles. 3 of them have been leased to people today with disabilities who operate for a shipping service set up by MATT this year.

Londoño prices the supply staff a regular rate of $90 and suggests they will be allowed to keep the hand-bikes at the time they have paid for them.

MATT makes use of the remaining hand-bikes for its wheelchair tour, which is even now in its early days and will have to compete in opposition to far more famous attractions, such as excursions of spots related with drug lord Pablo Escobar, a museum featuring the works of artist Fernando Botero and a cable automobile that ascends a steep mountain to a pristine cloud forest.

Londoño says he is seeking to advertise his tour on social media even though developing partnerships with community vacation organizations. He desires of taking the wheelchair excursions to other metropolitan areas in Colombia, Latin America and the United States.

“This is another way to exhibit how our city is changing” claimed Valeria Toro, a Medellin journey agent who would like to listing it on choices for travel companies abroad. “It’s an working experience that people today are not most likely to neglect soon after they go back again house.”