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Social Entrepreneurship in Hong Kong: Cabs for the Disabled
A new venture in Hong Kong bring together social enterprise and transit access for the elderly and disabled. Photo by Ivars Krutainis.

A new venture in Hong Kong brings together social enterprise and transit access for the elderly and disabled. Photo by Ivars Krutainis.

Social Ventures Hong Kong (SVhk) is a startup that seeks to invest capital and provide capacity building and results measuring to social enterprises. The organization is currently working with a project called Diamond Cab – one of a number of SVhk-supported projects focusing on the needs of the elderly and disabled.

The startup provides point-to-point transport service 24-hours a day in vehicles regulated by the taxi licensing authority in Hong Kong. The taxis have mechanical ramps at the back designed for wheelchair users, and fares start at HK$70. Additionally, the service promises to send a text message to friends and family when drop-off/pickup occurs.

“Diamond Cab is the first branded, high-quality taxi service in Hong Kong specially tailored for wheelchair users — and the only taxis which are wheelchair accessible,” Francis Ngai, SVhk founder and CEO, told Fast Company. Ngai says there is a lack of transit for the disabled in Hong Kong, partially because of cultural norms in which sons and daughters are expected to care for their parents. Those cultural norms are changing, increasing the need for the disabled and elderly to be able to travel independently, without depending on children. Hong Kong has the second largest elderly population in Asia, according to the Hong Kong Social Entrepreneurship Forum.

And Hong Kong is not the only city that lacks cab service for the disabled. Recently, a group of disability rights activists in New York City filed a class action lawsuit against the Taxi and Limousine Commission, claiming that “only 231 of more than 13,000 New York City taxicabs are accessible to people with disabilities.” In Malaysia, recent events have led to the Association of Women with Disabilities Malaysia, calling for taxis “by women, for women.” Noting the safety risks for female passengers, the group’s president stated, “It is worse for us who are blind or wheelchair-bound as we will not be able to run if we are attacked.”

Says Ngai of social entrepreneurship, the business is a form of “new social capital” in Hong Kong “as this social venture is the first one in Hong Kong” with mainstream shareholders.

“For now the group’s primary investees focus on the elderly and disabled, but eventually SVhk will expand into more culturally fraught issues such as youth and crime and health issues. But in the meantime Ngai says he and his team are focusing on making sure their model works and showing Hong Kong what social entrepreneurship is — and that it is viable both financially and socially.”

Diamond Cab’s service will begin next week; the company is part of a trend of developments focused on improving efficiency and quality of service in the taxi and auto rickshaw sector. Check out this post from TheCityFix for more.

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