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  • Chris McMillan

Ride-hailing for the blind: Didi promises accessible travel


29th April 2021

Ride-hailing for the blind: Didi promises accessible travel

Didi Chuxing, the ride-hailing and urban transport tech company that ate Uber's lunch in China, seems to be getting serious about accessibility for people with disabilities.

For most Chinese mobile users, the ride-sharing revolution has made travel as easy as tapping a button. But for Zhou Tong, the gains remain out of reach.

“There were countless times when I had issues getting a cab, and when the driver saw my guide dog, his initial reaction was to refuse the ride,” said Zhou (in Chinese).

Zhou is one of 17.5 million visually impaired people in China who have long faced barriers unbeknownst to the majority: buses without announcement systems, elevator buttons without Braille, and locks without voice activation.

But now, as the digital revolution gets under way, the visually impaired are facing new barriers even as China's tech giants promise to break them down. Life in Chinese cities is increasingly difficult if one can't use mobile phone apps, and Didi has become China's main way to access taxis and other transportation.

Just navigating the complex interface of the Didi app is difficult enough for the visually impaired, but the troubles don't stop even when Zhou manages to order a ride. “Many drivers count guide dogs as pets, and since pets aren't allowed in cabs, there's a high chance I get rejected,” she said.

Didi makes some accessibility promises

On April 13, Didi signed an agreement with the China Association of the Blind (CAB) to reduce barriers for the visually impaired in the ride-hailing process.

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