Electric powered wheelchair tours show Colombian city from new angle

MEDELLIN, Colombia (AP) — Wilson Guzmán missing the use of his legs at age 17

MEDELLIN, Colombia (AP) — Wilson Guzmán missing the use of his legs at age 17 when he was shot in the again although striving to get better a stolen bicycle in his hometown of Medellin, Colombia.

Two decades later on, he glides by means of the city’s streets employing an electrical hand-bicycle attached to the front of his wheelchair. He not long ago gave a tour of Medellin’s parks to seven men and women who adopted him down bike lanes and up steep hills on equivalent motor vehicles.

“Every man or woman who gets on these wheelchairs leaves with a smile,” reported Guzmán. “They also find out what it can be like to be in the sneakers of anyone with a disability.”


The wheelchair tours that Guzman leads when a week are the most current tourist attraction in a metropolis that is gradually shedding its name for drug violence and has become just one of Colombia’s most visited places.

They are organized by MATT — which stands for Mobility, Accessibility, Time and Get the job done — a commence-up established very last calendar year that aims to create positions for persons with disabilities.

For the equivalent of $25, the two people today who can and can’t wander can get on the electric wheelchairs and just take the a few-hour tour of the city’s riverside parks, which features stops at a coffee store and a bar that does beer tasting. The equipment speed up speedily and can achieve speeds of 30 kph (19 mph).

“We imagine this will be a profitable proposal in conditions of instruction and inclusion,” said business founder Martín Londoño.

The excursions started in October and their routes are still being altered. Londoño mentioned he needed to supply them before this calendar year but experienced to delay the launch because of to the coronavirus pandemic and vacation limitations imposed by the Colombian federal government, which have been lifted in September.

The hand-cycles, designed and made with the aid of regional bike workshops, are powered by rechargeable batteries and latch on to wheelchairs with metal bars and hooks. The steering and brakes are like those people on a frequent bicycle, when accelerating only necessitates pushing a button on just one of the handles.

Londoño, 31, started out to perform on the hand-cycles four many years ago to increase his own mobility. He lost the use of his legs after breaking his spinal chord in a website traffic accident at age 18.

Londoño took inspiration from Batec, a Spanish corporation that tends to make electric hand-bikes and sells them for between 4,000 and 6,000 euros. He wanted to make a model that was extra affordable for men and women in Colombia, exactly where the bare minimum wage is about $250 a month.

Right after several attempts, Londoño managed to develop a functional hand-bike for himself, but his attempts to offer them for all around $2,000 weren’t prosperous.

“We realized that most people today with disabilities in Colombia have very meager incomes,” explained Londoño, who grew up in a wealthy community of Medellin and graduated from an international university. “They have no work and lots of can not even pay for a regular wheelchair.”

Londoño adjusted his enterprise model and established MATT. With his personal savings and individuals of his enterprise associates, Londoño has designed a fleet of 15 hand-cycles. A few of them have been leased to folks with disabilities who work for a shipping service set up by MATT this yr.

Londoño expenses the supply workers a regular monthly fee of $90 and says they will be allowed to keep the hand-bikes once they have compensated for them.

MATT makes use of the remaining hand-bikes for its wheelchair tour, which is still in its early days and will have to contend from a lot more popular points of interest, together with excursions of spots associated with drug lord Pablo Escobar, a museum featuring the is effective of artist Fernando Botero and a cable car that ascends a steep mountain to a pristine cloud forest.

Londoño says he is striving to endorse his tour on social media though constructing partnerships with community travel firms. He desires of having the wheelchair tours to other towns in Colombia, Latin The us and the United States.

“This is one more way to present how our metropolis is changing” claimed Valeria Toro, a Medellin travel agent who would like to record it on offerings for journey companies abroad. “It’s an practical experience that people are not probably to forget about following they go back home.”