For 17-year-old Philip Hojgaard-Olsen, finding wheelchair-accessible transport was not an easy task.
He has muscular dystrophy, a disease which affects the muscles and makes mobility difficult.
He said transport such as buses and taxis commonly lack the suitable requirements to take a wheelchair.
“Sometimes buses don’t have access, or the access doesn’t work,” he said.
“It can be quite frustrating, especially if you’ve gone all the way to the bus stop only to find out the buses can’t cater for you.”
He said wheelchair-accessible taxis proved costly and were unsuitable for longer trips.
After spending more than $20,000 converting the family car, Philip and his dad Peter set about trying to bring change by writing to car-share service GoGet, urging them to offer accessible vehicles.
One year later, the company launched its first accessible vehicle, believed to be the first of its kind in Australia.
“It will enable people with disabilities to get out for longer, for families to take out relatives and friends with disabilities, and for Philip to get a break from his dad and hit the road with his friends,” GoGet CEO Tristan Sender said.
Peter Hojgaard-Olsen said the move was a positive step.
“For less than $10 an hour, it becomes possible to get transportation to where you need to go,” he said.
He’s now urging the government to subsidise similarly flexible transport options which he said could also benefit an ageing population.
“And not always having to rely on a taxi, because its too expensive, and public transport (which) doesn’t cover all the places you need to go, and the frequency and timing,” he said.
“It opens up a whole new avenue.”
NSW Minister for Disability Services, John Ajaka, said the cost of modifying family cars can be hard for many people.
“In addition to the cost of the vehicle, which, for a van, could be anywhere around $50,000, there’s an additional cost of $20,000 to $25,000 for some basic conversions,” he said.
The GoGet accessible car-share vehicle was launched with the support of Spinal Cord Injuries Australia (SCIA) and was set to operate on a trial basis out of Sydney’s Royal North Shore Hospital.
If the trial is successful, the company hopes to roll out more vehicles nationally, something Philip said would make a difference in people’s lives.
“Being able to get to work… yeah, I think its an amazing thing,” he said.