Huntsville’s first wheelchair-accessible taxi means better mobility for people with disabilities

wheelchair-accessible cab.JPGView full sizeThe first electric wheelchair-accessible taxi in Huntsville — and possibly all of Alabama — is now in service at A-Plus Cab company. (Courtesy Bryan Dodson) 

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama – Huntsville’s A-Plus Cab company may be the first in Alabama to roll out a taxicab that can accommodate people in electric wheelchairs.

A-Plus owner Junior Jordan recently purchased the bright yellow Chrysler minivan at a steep discount from Phoenix, a Huntsville nonprofit that helps people with disabilities find employment. The new taxi hit the streets Friday afternoon.

Phoenix President-CEO Bryan Dodson said the cab will improve the quality of life for people in electric wheelchairs who don’t have their own transportation.

Although city shuttle buses have wheelchair lifts, it can take more than an hour to get across town with the required transfers. Handi-Ride shuttles drive people with disabilities right to the doorstep of the grocery store or doctor’s office, but they do not operate at night.

Dodson, who chairs Huntsville’s transportation committee, said he began thinking about a wheelchair-accessible taxicab after hearing from a double amputee who cannot take her grandkids out for dinner.

He said Phoenix bought the minivan from the Montgomery-based Southern Disability Foundation for about $25,000, then resold it to A-Plus at a discount. The van has a folding wheelchair ramp, lowered floorboard and no seats in the middle row.

Because it still has bench seating in the back, the van can be used as a traditional taxi. Or it can carry a person in a wheelchair and several family members at the same time.

“It should do a lot to improve the quality of life for people with disabilities in town, because they’ve never had this option before,” Dodson told AL.com Monday. “I’m excited. There are a lot of folks out there who use chairs who really think this will be a helpful service.”

Jordan, the A-Plus Cab owner, is going to keep a record of how many people in wheelchairs use the new taxicab. Dodson said he hopes that data proves to other local cab companies that wheelchair-accessible taxis are a “good business proposition.

“That way, we can get more of them on the street,” he said.

Article source: http://blog.al.com/breaking/2013/10/huntsvilles_first_wheelchair-a.html