The deaf in the driver’s seat

> Uber’s mo­bile app now sports new fea­tures to aid the hear­ing-im­paired be­come its driver part­ners un­der Pro­jek: Be­bas Berg­erak

The Sun (Malaysia) - - FEATURE - JEREMY CHEONG

TECH­NOL­OGY has cer­tainly done won­ders for the hu­man race, even for those who are ‘phys­i­cally chal­lenged’ and had trou­ble mak­ing ends meet.

Now, they can lever­age on var­i­ous gad­gets and apps to give them equal foot­ing with the able­bod­ied.

Uber, which de­vel­ops and op­er­ates the mo­bile app that al­lows con­sumers with smart­phones to sub­mit a trip re­quest for a self-em­ployed driver, has added new fea­tures de­signed to reach out to driv­ers who are deaf or hard of hear­ing.

In con­junc­tion with the re­cent In­ter­na­tional Week of the Deaf, Uber Malaysia has in­tro­duced Pro­jek: Be­bas Berg­erak, a co­op­er­a­tive ini­tia­tive with the Malaysian Fed­er­a­tion of the Deaf (MFD) to reach out to MFD mem­bers in­ter­ested to be part of the Uber plat­form.

Un­der Pro­jek: Be­bas Berg­erak, Uber will pro­vide spe­cial train­ing ses­sions specif­i­cally for its hear­ing-im­paired and hard-of­hear­ing part­ners once a month at its Part­ners Sup­port Cen­tre in Pe­tal­ing Jaya.

The MFD, on its part, has as­sisted Uber in cre­at­ing cus­tomised train­ing decks for these mem­bers.

In ad­di­tion, the first batch of

these hair­ing-im­paired driver part­ners will also have their ser­vice fees waived for the first month with the plat­form to help them on their way.

It is es­ti­mated that there are about 30,000 Malaysians who are deaf or hard of hear­ing. Such an ini­tia­tive could pro­vide them a chance to make a com­fort­able liv­ing.

“At the end of the day, [peo­ple] just want to have an op­por­tu­nity to pro­vide for them­selves, their loved ones, and to be pro­duc­tive mem­bers of so­ci­ety,” said Kenny Choong, Uber Malaysia gen­eral man­ager for ex­pan­sion.

“Deaf part­ner driv­ers are in­spir­ing ex­am­ples of re­silience and tenac­ity, in this re­gard.

“I’m proud that Uber’s tech­nol­ogy for deaf part­ner driv­ers widens op­por­tu­ni­ties for even more Malaysians to ‘press a but­ton and earn money’ through Pro­jek: Be­bas Berg­erak.

“This is a great ex­am­ple of how Uber can pioneer the kind of tech­nol­ogy that solves real-world prob­lems with peo­ple in mind.”

MFD pres­i­dent Mo­hamad Sazali Shaari added: “The MFD sup­ports Pro­jek: Be­bas Berg­erak by Uber to pro­mote in­creased work op­por­tu­ni­ties for deaf and hard-of-hear­ing driv­ers.”

Choong also hopes that the ini­tia­tive, be­sides pro­vid­ing em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties for the hear­ing-im­paired, will also help to change the per­cep­tion of other Malaysians that while these driv­ers may be hear­ing-im­paired, they are still good driv­ers and will get pas­sen­gers to their des­ti­na­tions as safely and smoothly as pos­si­ble.

Choong also en­sures cus­tomers that these driv­ers go through the same strin­gent back­ground checks and fil­ter­ing sys­tem as all other Uber driver part­ners.

James Lim, 37, is one of the ini­tia­tive’s first hear­ing-im­paired driver part­ners. Like many other Uber driv­ers, Lim holds a full­time job as a 3D de­signer.

When asked how his ex­pe­ri­ence has been so far, Lim mo­tioned that the new fea­tures on the app have been pretty much straight­for­ward for both driv­ers and rid­ers, and he hasn’t had any bad ex­pe­ri­ence so far.

As to how the new fea­tures work, Uber driver part­ners who are deaf or hard of hear­ing sign in to their ac­counts and turn the fea­ture on like other driv­ers.

But in their case, the Uber Part­ner app will sig­nal new trip re­quests with a flash­ing light, in ad­di­tion to the ex­ist­ing au­dio no­ti­fi­ca­tions.

On the rid­ers end, the op­tion to call is turned off and any cor­re­spon­dence with the driver is done mainly via text mes­sag­ing.

The app will also add an ex­tra prompt for rid­ers to let them know that their driver is deaf or hard of hear­ing.

ZULFADHLI ZAKI/THESUN

Giv­ing power to the deaf … (cen­tre, from left) Choong and Mo­hamad Sazali, flanked by Uber hearingim­paired driver part­ners, in­clud­ing Lim (sec­ond from right).

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