Taxi hailing online company, Uber, has committed to hire deaf Kenyan drivers and those with hearing difficulties in a partnership signed with the Kenya National Association of the Deaf (KNAD).
The partnership reached last weekend makes Nairobi the first African country to run the pilot project.
The Uber App has been modified to disable the call function when the rider is contacting a deaf driver and switching it to text if they need to provide special instructions for pickup.
On the driver’s screen, colour flash notifies them of an incoming message or ride request. The app will add an extra prompt for riders to enter their destination and lets them know their driver is deaf.
“We are introducing new features on the Uber App which are designed to make it easier for deaf and hard-of-hearing Kenyans to become partner-drivers and earn an income,” said Jambu Palaniappan, Regional General Manager for Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa.
Many deaf Kenyans are economically disaantaged, with almost two-thirds currently unemployed.
“Part of our mission is to promote public and private sector policies and initiatives that meet the rights and needs of the deaf community. This partnership, which will make it easier for deaf and (those with hearing difficulties) to work, is a welcome development.” Said Nickson Kakiri, National Chairman of the Kenya National Association of the Deaf.
The new features have been tested in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington D.C. and now in Nairobi.
Uber, which predominantly uses electronic systems for fare payments, added a cash option for riders in Nairobi in a bid to grow customers in Kenya’s largely cash-driven economy.
The cashless system for public transportation launched in Kenya is struggling to take off, with many commuters still opting to pay for their trips in cash.
According to the app company, the first six months of the year have seen it run two million rides across Africa. This is an increase over the total of one million rides in Africa during the entire of 2014.
Uber has been expanding across the continent from the initial launch cities of Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban to start operating in Cairo, Lagos and Nairobi and most recently in Casablanca.