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