Ride-Sharing Service Focusing On Passengers With Disabilities
CHICAGO — More than a year ago, New Star, a Chicago Heights-based nonprofit that assists people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, started work on solving a problem that faces many of its clients — access to transportation.
Most of the people New Star works with don’t drive, and using public transportation can be a challenge, Dan Strick, chief executive said. Also, they and their families don’t always feel comfortable using ride-sharing services, he said.
New Star hopes a new web and mobile application it expects to roll out next year, called SCOOT, will change that.
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
Similar to Uber or Lyft, SCOOT, or Stronger Communities through Open and Organized Transportation, will make available drivers specifically trained in working with people with disabilities, and with vehicles specially equipped to transport them, Strick said.
New Star had already raised $90,000 to get SCOOT moving, and recently was awarded $70,000 through a competition called “Arc Tank,” a play on “Shark Tank,” overseen by Northeast Arc. The Massachusetts organization services children and adults who have a broad range of disabilities, including intellectual disabilities and autism.
In its second year, “Arc Tank” was created to “positively disrupt the conventional methods of providing services to persons with disabilities,” according to Northeast Arc. New Star was one of three initiatives receiving awards from the Changing Lives Fund, established with a $1 million donation from Steven Rosenthal, founder of a real estate private equity firm, West Shore.
New Star was one of more than 100 proposals submitted from around the world seeking funding, and was among seven finalists in the competition. Strick and others from New Star went to Boston to pitch their proposal for SCOOT before a panel of judges.
Strick said that SCOOT was first conceived about 14 months ago, and New Star started working on it in February of this year. The plan, after testing the application, is to have SCOOT available sometime next spring, he said.
In announcing the award for New Star, Northeast Arc said that “transportation is one of the most significant barriers between people (with intellectual and developmental disabilities) and their full participation in the community.” SCOOT, it said, “aims to make sure they can travel easily and safely from home to jobs and community interactions — a key to solving the problems of isolation.”
Strick said that New Star clients have reported “bad experiences where they’ve been taken advantage of” with ride-sharing services, and that “some of these folks might need a little more assistance than the typical (ride-share) passenger.”
Using public transportation also presents obstacles for those with disabilities, he said.
“Say you live in Crete and have to commute to a job in Midlothian,” Strick said. “Many of our clients do not drive, so that could be a lengthy commute and involve a few bus transfers.”
He said New Star so far has about 25 people lined up as drivers who’ll undergo training and receive background checks. Like other ride-sharing services, passengers will pay drivers directly for trips.
SCOOT will have drivers who have access to specially equipped vehicles, such as vans with a lift that can accommodate a wheelchair, Strick said.
Riders will be able to pull up information about drivers, including when a background check was completed and what specialized training the driver has.
Rather than attempting to develop and test the app on its own, New Star partnered with Simpalm, a firm which has developed in the neighborhood of 200 web and mobile apps related to health care, entertainment and government.
© 2018 Daily Southtown
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC