Personal transportation can be a challenge for persons with disabilities (PWDs) especially those confined to a wheelchair. The size and limitation of the wheelchair itself can make boarding a vehicle difficult. In addition, some controls like the rear brake pedal and shifter are difficult to reach.
Aware of their plight, custom bike builder, Jeffrey “Pong” Ylagan of Ylagan Kustom is hoping to do something about it. Pong is perhaps better known for his wild creations, earning awards from numerous competitions. He has even competed at the Yokohama Hot Rod Custom Show by Mooneyes in Japan.
While there, Japan’s high priority for PWDs inspired him to create a wheelchair-friendly vehicle for Pinoys. Though Pong is able to walk, he himself is a PWD, being born with clubfoot.
To serve as his canvas for a PWD-friendly prototype, Pong chose the Bajaj RE. Pong cited its acceptance on local roads, symmetrical build, fuel efficiency and powerful engine to carry the additional weight of modifications as factors.
To turn it into a PWD-friendly vehicle, he first had to enlarge the front of the passenger cabin to accommodate a wheelchair.
Getting inside is easy with the addition of a wheelchair ramp that doubles as a door installed on right side. It’s raised and lowered with a manual winch. The idea of an electric winch has been brought up but Ylagan prefers the reliability of a manual setup.
The rider simply rolls up the ramp that has a very gentle slope to get into the cabin. Once inside, he is on a rotating platform with high grip surfaces. This platform can rotate 360-degrees to access both the front and back of the cabin. While in motion, straps lock on to the wheelchair’s wheels, to keep it in place. There’s still space in the cabin for two extra passengers behind the PWD.
Once ready to roll, the PWD will find that all the vehicle’s controls are now within reach. Ylagan has converted the floor-mounted pedals into switches. The brake lever uses a combi-brake system to apply pressure to both the front and rear wheels. Even the handbrake has been brought closer to the operator.
Besides these modifications, Ylagan also added prominent PWD signage located at the sides and rear of the vehicle.
“Medyo mahirap siya gawin, kasi wala akong pinagkopyahan, (It was hard to do because all of these ideas were original and unique.)” says Ylagan.
However, it’s well worth the effort as even PWDs should be able to enjoy the fruits of personal mobility, and most importantly, the joys of riding.
“Welcome kayo sa community namin. Iisa tayo lahat. Kasama ang PWD community. (You’re welcome in our community. We’re all one. Even the PWD community.),” he said.
For now, the Bajaj RE PWD is still a prototype. However Ylagan and Bajaj Philippines are looking into the many possibilities for the vehicle.