Travel Hands is very important for the World, Moving Forward
Think about your daily journey. How many intersections or staircases do you navigate, signs you pass by, paths and roads, or changes at the tube or bus stations? How many people cross your path, only for you to have to suddenly change direction? Now think about how much harder your day would be if you were partially sighted, or blind: a blurred vision or worse seeing nothing. This is what it’s like for the 285 million Visually Impaired people or VIP as we refer to them, in the world.
A VIP friend once told me, “when I go out for a walk, my mind gets tired faster than my feet.” I felt that for a long time when I went out after the pandemic. Is that how it feels to be locked down inside the four walls? What if this continues for a lifetime?
I find answering these questions tough, hurtful and scary. But, we cannot control the uncontrollable. So, the team behind VIP World Services, a tech startup based in London, has decided to innovate, work hard and dared to dream that
Every VIP can walk outdoors safely, conveniently and inexpensively.
This blog shares the thoughts around why, what, how and for whom is Travel Hands?
In crux, Travel Hands is a service designed to ease the outdoor commute of VIP (Visually Impaired People) by pairing them with sighted & verified volunteers to walk together to similar destinations ensuring a safe, convenient, and inexpensive travel experience.
Let’s start first with Why have we created Travel Hands?
You may think that It is highly unlikely that your eyesight may take a hit. So, let’s start with the situation we are facing here. From the moment someone’s told they’re losing their sight; they’re forced into a journey and there is no clear route – and this is a reality that can affect anyone. Reality is, every 6 minutes someone is told they're going blind, and every day 250 people start to lose their sight in the UK. Today, the number of people in the UK living with sight loss is 2 million, in the next 30 years this number is likely to double. After getting the diagnosis of sight loss, more than eighty percent of people don’t get any emotional support, they are left alone to deal with the devastating news.
Travelling especially for many VIP can be very tough. Even for the shortest of distances, a VIP has to face the hassle of booking a taxi when making an unaccompanied journey. The trip is normally made through a phone call and entails an average waiting time of 20 minutes, despite being a brief 10-minute walk. Guide dogs can offer huge support, but with the cost of breeding, raising, and training the dog (and their eventual user) approaching £63,000, it’s not an option available to most. Even though TfL offers VIP a Freedom Pass allowing free travel across London, it can be pretty tricky for VIP to use bus and tube systems. TfL also currently has a system in place, Turn up and Go, where VIP can ask for assistance to be led in and out of transport, but it’s the journey to and from TFL systems that VIP requires most help with.
Areas that need attention include planning a route, finding the station and walking to and from destinations. For VIP who find traditional public transportation unfeasible, currently, the taxi service, although expensive, is the only option to their independence.
We now know for a VIP, navigating busy urban landscapes can be extremely challenging.
Additionally, travelling independently for VIP is unsafe and using public transport is 100% more expensive and 2X time taking as compared to people with sight.
What is Travel Hands and how does it work?
Travel Hands pairs VIP with sighted and verified volunteers to walk together towards their similar destinations.
A VIP can submit a trip request that is automatically sent to a volunteer near them, alerting the volunteer to their location. The accepting volunteer will then come and pick the VIP up and walk towards the requested destination.
VIP pay for the service in different ways to reap the benefits of the service. We charge them in 2 different ways to use the pay as you go feature:
- £3 for up to 3 hours of Travel Hands assistance with the volunteers
- £5 for up to 24 hours of Travel Hands assistance with the volunteers
- £15 monthly subscription with unlimited number of assistance in a month with volunteers.
Travel Hands monthly subscribers get member benefits by getting free or discounted tickets to entertainment events, museums, theatres, comedy, music and many attractions in London. You can find various options on our page here.
Yes, volunteers play a big role in this process and we pay special attention in ensuring safety, convenience and benefits for both the parties. Volunteers help VIP in a flexible way and walk more. They are vetted by the Enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) offered by the UK government and paid by us. Also, they are provided with an online training, consisting of a Volunteer Handbook document & a short video instruction on how to assist a VIP in walking, guiding and resolving small issues that may arise. Followed by a self-assessment test and once they pass, they are paired with nearby VIP on their journeys.
As a thank you, volunteers get reward incentives, which can be redeemed from our platform. The distance walked with VIP is converted to points, points then converted to goodies as incentives from affiliated companies that seek and value their customers under Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs. Corporations can promote their products or services to a wider audience and also contribute to their welfare.
What impact will this phenomenon create?
Travel Hands will improve the lives of VIP, create a social cohesion in the local community and reduce government spending on related public services:
- Ensure that VIP save on average 30 minutes for every journey undertaken and £40 on travel costs per month.
- Create new social interactions and explore opportunities in life that VIP never enjoyed before.
- Reduce carbon emission by reducing the use of taxi and single-mode transportation by VIP.
- Improve physical and mental health by encouraging walking and social interaction among the VIP and the volunteers.
- Give VIP access to the VIP World Community that will help them to practice their IT skills and provide encouragement for each other, in the field of employment.
I think it is better to hear this from the people who have used Travel Hands themselves.
“I felt very nervous at first, but Gary was friendly and reassuring and my confidence picked up as we spent more time together and I got more used to Gary's needs. I had a lovely time with Gary. It was fun to do something different with a new person.”
“She's very organised. She appreciated everything I said. She listens to me and did not judge me.”
I think that it's a great initiative, everything is good as it's going on now. This experience is professional and fun at the same time.”
I felt very confident and now feeling very comfortable with the VIP.
“Was a lovely experience spending time with Naïma. We have a lot in common. Hoping to go out with her again soon.”
“Thank you so much for everything that you're doing for us as VIP World and I want to say actually thank you so much to the volunteers a they are doing wonderful.”
“It was good for me to be honest. I had fun as well, it was good for me to socialise because as I told you I was shielding with my husband without seeing people and I stopped all of my activities.”
VIP - “I just want to say thank you so much to you guys for coming up with something like this for VIP because to be honest that's what we’re lacking in the community as a visually impaired person so this is just amazing help, thank you!”
Why is Travel Hands very important for the World, moving forward?
While developing Travel Hands, I strongly feel that it is critical for society for a number of reasons. Logistically, the service saves travel costs and time for the VIP, thereby, giving their ego a big boost in organising themselves outdoors. It opens up new avenues of socialising and work for VIP, and increases the contribution towards the economy. Volunteers and VIP both increase their physical activity and connect with the people around, eventually benefiting their mental health. The bond in the local community is stronger with the increase in awareness around topics such as accessibility and disability. With Travel Hands, the society at large can boast of not only promoting empathy but also practising it with their participation.
My VIP friend, who shared that his mind gets tired before his feet do when he is outdoors, is now a vivid Travel Hands user, and is busy figuring out what next to try out with Travel Hands. He does not complain of his mind getting tired outdoors anymore.
The service launched in May 2021 in London, in the form of a call centre, with 10% WOW growth on journeys. If you believe in our mission, get involved with us today. We are looking forward to create partnerships, explore internship and volunteer opportunities:
WhatsApp Chat: https://wa.link/nbg6ek
Register Here as a Volunteer : https://bit.ly/2Khh9GM
Register Here as a VIP : https://bit.ly/2YiadMW
Phone number: +44 20 3966 1650
Learn More: https://www.travelhands.co.uk/
For any query, contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
The project is led by the talented and diverse Team behind VIP World Services. VIP World Services is a company designing solutions for organisations that aim to make websites, build mobile apps, or develop services inclusive for VIP by considering the WCAG accessibility standards and by user testing & gaining feedback directly from the VIP World community. Please visit the website for more details: https://www.vipworldservices.com