ALMATY – A special taxi service for passengers with disabilities, Invataxi, is helping break down barriers and promote equal access to education and employment in Almaty and around the country.To access the service, a disabled person must bring an inquiry from the local social security office, a certificate from a medical professional and an identity card, said manager Zina Chicheneva. Individuals wanting to use the service then call the organisation and arrange a time for pickup. Currently, the service runs five days a week. Invataxi cars are equipped with GPS navigators and coordinated by the traffic superintendent. 114 Almaty residents use Invataxi’s services every day.
The service was established a few years ago through the Centre for Rehabilitation Services.
“With the support of the Sabi charity fund we created a joint project, A decent life for people with disabilities, in the framework of which more than 65 cars were given to the foundation for the organisation of the transport service,” Chairman of the Union of Organisations of Disabled People of Kazakhstan Ali Amanbayev said.
“Invataxi works in all regions of the country. In Shymkent, Aktau and other cities, there is a minimum of two to three cars. 14 taxis operate in Almaty to cope with the load. It is not enough for the metropolis,” he said.
According to Amanbayev, Invataxi primarily services disabled people who are studying and working. Each of them can take 10 free trips per month and the service runs five days a week. To operate all seven days, the service needs about 80 million tenge (about $522,000) per year.
“The Almaty Department of Employment and Social Programmes supports us,” Amanbayev said. “Now, at the level of the government, a specific provision for Invataxi is being developed, which will provide funding arrangements, the necessary calculations, the cost. We hope that by the end of the year we will see the results. After the legal work of organising financing, the services will depend on other current issues, such as repairs for cars.”
According to government statistics, the country has more than 600 million registered persons with disabilities, more than 38,000 of them in Almaty.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), every fifteenth person on Earth has special needs. In the West, people with disabilities are registered and provided with work according to their abilities. In developed countries, subways and other public transportation are adapted to the needs of people with disabilities. In Finland, people with disabilities can take 18 free trips per month. In Germany, the problem of the employment of disabled people is almost solved. Only one question remains on the agenda there: how to find decent work for people with mental disabilities.
Amanbayev is convinced that if a barrier-free environment, as well as assistance in education and employment, were provided in Kazakhstan, people with disabilities could finally feel like ordinary citizens. Invataxi is one way of promoting equal opportunities.