Uber fields deaf drivers with new app update
By Chong Jinn Xiung September 30, 2016
- Uber Malaysia to recruit more deaf and hard-of-hearing drivers
- App adds more features to facilitate better communication between deaf drivers and riders
DURING the day James Lim works as a 3D designer in Petaling Jaya. Four months ago, he decided to earn some extra income by becoming an Uber driver at night.
But unlike most other Uber partner drivers, James is deaf. He is one of 30 deaf and hard of hearing drivers that have been initiated into a programme called Projek: Bebas Bergerak (Project: Freedom to Move), a collaboration between Uber Malaysia and the Malaysian Federation of the Deaf (MFD).
“Uber is about opening up more opportunities for Malaysians and we are extending our reach to more people. This includes those who are deaf and hard of hearing too,” said Uber Malaysia general manager for expansion, Kenny Choong (pic above).
He notes that in Malaysia there are 30,000 hearing impaired people and they face great challenges in a world designed for able-bodied persons.
“It is important that we spread awareness that drivers who are hearing impaired are not unsafe and can work just as well as any able-bodied person,” he said.
MFD president Mohamad Sazali Shaari said the new initiative would open the door for deaf people to become contributing members of society and allow them to earn some extra income.
“There are many people who are driving with Uber part-time, why not give deaf people a chance,” he said.
Uber Malaysia said deaf drivers can use the updated Uber Partner app that now signals a new trip request with a flashing light in addition to the existing audio notification.
When a ride request is made to a deaf driver, the rider is informed that their driver is hard of hearing and the option to call is turned off. Riders instead are given only the ability to text if they need to provide special instructions for pick up.
In addition, the app has an extra prompt for riders to enter their destination which they can communicate to the driver via text or WhatsApp.
Lim (pic, above) said the improvements to the app make communicating with riders easier as there is less chance of a misunderstanding. After four months of driving, he has received positive feedback from riders.
Uber Malaysia is reaching out to those in the deaf and hard of hearing community who might be interested in driving with the company. It it is organising special training sessions specifically for deaf and hard of hearing partners once a month at its Partner Support Centre in Petaling Jaya.
The MFD is providing assistance by crafting a customised training deck for hard-of-hearing members.
For the first batch of driver partners, the service fee will be waived in the first month to start them off on their journey with Uber Malaysia.
Uber Malaysia said it has plans to roll out the programme nationwide and hopes to recruit more individuals who are deaf and hard-of-hearing.