'Beethoven' to help hearing-impaired Uber drivers pick up passengers

Mr Roland Goh, 45, is an Uber driver who is hearing impaired. Through Uber's Beethoven feature, Mr Goh is able to use the Uber app to pick up passengers and earn an income.
Mr Roland Goh, 45, is an Uber driver who is hearing impaired. Through Uber's Beethoven feature, Mr Goh is able to use the Uber app to pick up passengers and earn an income.ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

SINGAPORE - Ride-hailing app Uber has launched in Singapore a new feature called Beethoven, which will help drivers who are hearing-impaired to use Uber to pick up passengers and earn an income.

There are around 20 of such drivers on the platform now but Uber hopes to get more onboard, it said on Monday (Sept 26).

With the Beethoven feature, hearing-impaired drivers are alerted of a new ride booking through flashing lights in their apps, on top of the existing audio notifications.

Passengers who are picked up by a hearing-impaired driver are also alerted beforehand of their driver's disability.

While passengers can normally call their drivers through the Uber app, this function will be disabled when the driver is hearing-impaired. Instead, passengers will be prompted to text their drivers.

A pilot of the Beethoven programme started nine months ago in Singapore, said Uber Singapore's general manager Warren Tseng.

Mr Tseng said hearing-impairments "makes it very difficult for people to find equal opportunities for employment and part-time jobs", and this was what drove Uber to come up with Beethoven.

Parliamentary Secretary for Social and Family Development Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, who was at the media event to launch Beethoven, said it is an example of how technology can be "an enabler for persons with disabilities".

He said: "Step by step, Singapore can become a more inclusive society for persons with disabilities."