“The main duty of Behesht-e Imam Reza charity organization is 24-hour care for children who have lost one or both parents and disabled children as well as the sick and disabled elderly, who don’t have a sponsor. Alongside disabled abandoned children, we also have a special department for the elderly, where 100 older people live. All of them are abandoned and suffer some sort of disability. Therefore, one of the main characteristic of care receivers at Behesht-e-Imam Reza is their disability and one of the main problems, they jointly face, is the issue of transportation,” says Yousef Aslani, who is the director and founder of Behesht-e-Imam Reza charity.
Aslani says, for the families caring for disabled people, transportation is a major problem and causes other difficulties, too. He says people with cerebral palsy, spinal cord injury, advanced multiple sclerosis and others who are disabled need regular rehabilitation. He, however, says transportation is a key problem here and can bar these patients from getting the therapy they need. Aslani says this is especially the case when the patients are cared for by their elderly parents, who don’t have a car, in the absence of adequate public transportation adjusted to the needs of the disabled.
“Many disabled people face the same unpleasant condition. There are many disabled children, who should regularly visit physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy centers, but their parents cannot provide them with these services, because they do not have a private car. What’s the result? The disabled child has to stay at home and his condition gets worse every day…. The issue of transportation for these people has turned into a major concern for them and their families,” Aslani says.
Against this backdrop, and reports of people with motor disability getting depressed simply because they cannot go out, Aslani says he and his colleagues came up with the idea of creating an online system, similar to online taxi services, to transport the disabled free of charge. He says they, then, set up a professional team, had an application designed for the purpose and established support call centers for the service.
“The mechanism of the online taxi service, dubbed Eight to be blessed by Imam Reza [the eight Imam of the Shia Muslims and a member of the Prophet Mohammad’s household], is completely similar to existing transportation apps. Both disabled individuals and volunteer drivers install the app on their smart phones and both the process of requesting a vehicle and provision of service is completed through the app,” Aslani says.
“But there are two points of difference. Firstly, all people can register in the system and announce their readiness to provide transportation services with any kind of vehicle all the way through a pickup and a Pride to a Toyota, Mercedes or a Porsche, as over the [weeks’ long] period [registration in the app has began], we have had volunteers with vehicles from all these models [who have registered to provide transportation service]. Secondly, the target community for this application, i.e. its passengers, is only the disabled people.”