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A day at Ferdinand Rodricks’workshop

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A day at Ferdinand Rodricks’workshop

A day at Ferdinand Rodricks’workshop

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  • 1. 10 the guide AUTO MAY 29, 2011. SUNDAY MiD DAYA day at FerdinandRodricks’workshopA passion for tinkering with cars led a young mechanical engineer to come upwith an invention that would change the lives of over 1,000 differently-ableddrivers. That was 20 years ago, and Ferdinand Rodricks hasn’t stopped sinceYOSHITA SENGUPTA said, “owning a car itself was a 1] Rodricks’ latestyoshita.sengupta@mid-day.com big deal. So modifying it — tin- assignment was to modify kering was unheard of.” the Maruti Eeco of 63 year-SITTING in his air-conditioned “When I worked on my old Chembur residentoffice, 50 year-old Ferdinand friend’s car, people thought IRodricks seems like any other was not in my senses,” he recol- Pratap Singh, whose rightCEO at the helm of a well-estab- lects. leg is polio-affected. Thelished automotive services firm. Over time however, word first thing he needed to do But if you look around his spread and people with various was make a lever that wouldDadar office carefully, you will disabilities approached him. be attached to the brake andfind a wheelchair in one corner “Everyone had a different kind another to the accelerator.and framed photographs of of disability, and unique specifi- Here, Rodricks bends ansmiling people, standing next cations. Someone wanted a aluminum tube to make ato assorted car parts, hanging wheelchair fit in the car; others lever.on a wall nearby. All of them, wanted their seats to rotate.”differently-abled. It’s tough not to forge a Rodricks began experiment- bond with every client, 2] Rodricks drills a hole intoing with automobile parts from Rodricks smiled. “You need to the tube, which will bea young age. While studying understand their problem and attached to the brake andMechanical Engineering in customise the car according to accelerator that are on the1982, he modified a Fiat their needs. Sometimes, solu- driver’s right hand side.Padmini owned by a friend tions aren’t easy to come by Pratap has a right-sidedafflicted with polio, making it and require continuous brain- disability and Rodricks ispossible for him to drive the car storming.” modifying the car to enablewithout using his feet. “I want- Comfort and dignity, addsed to modify my friend’s Fiat in Rodricks, matter the most. “I him to operate the brakea way that he could drive it ask the disabled person to be and accelerator withoutcomfortably, using just his selfish, not think about what using his right leg.hands,” Rodricks says. others in the family want or 3] One lever is attached to the concerned. Initially the RTOs Two years later, after obtain- how the car looks. His com- would allow modified cars,ing his degree, Rodricks fort is of utmost importance. brake, and another to the since they were for disabledopened an automobile work- There have been cases where accelerator. Both levers are then people. Later, they becameshop in the backyard of his a car bought especially for a fitted into a handlebar that strict and said that cars need toMalad bungalow and began disabled person has been Pratap can operate with his left be either produced by a manu-modifying cars for differently- modified to fit 10 other peo- hand. facturer or modified by anabled persons. ple, making it uncomfortable 4] The height of the levers and approved person.” In 1999, Rodricks opened a for the disabled driver. I do the handlebar depend on the Since modifications wereservice centre for Mahindra & not encourage this,” he height of the car and the driver. specific and would changeMahindra Ltd. in Dadar. He asserts. They need to be made with depending on individualcontinued to modify cars for the One of Rodricks’ latest proj- requirements, his team drewdisabled from a 400 sq feet ects is a car for a 63 year-old exactitude — the handlebar must out certain basic parameters forworkshop located at the back of retired businessman whose not touch the dashboard when ARAI, on which modificationshis service centre. right leg is polio-affected. pushed, or come too close to the of cars were approved. But it wasn’t easy. Rodricks Rodricks attached levers to steering wheel, when pulled. But that’s not where thefaced cynicism. “Back then,” he the brake and accelerator of PICS/PRATHIK PANCHAMIA story ends for a disabled person — to drive a modified car, they still need a special licence, which can be procured only after a lengthy process of obtaining a certificate of dis- ability from All India Institute of Physical Medicine And Chembur resident Pratap position where they are com- Rehabilitation (AIIPMR), an Singh’s Maruti Eeco. Both fortable and relaxed is very RTO inspection, the Transport levers are attached to a handle- important. They become edgy if Commissioner’s approval, a bar which when pushed they are even slightly uncom- nod from the departments in forward towards the wind- fortable,” he shares. Delhi... Rodricks trails off. shield, makes the car brake, Rodricks insists on meeting The process is supposed to and when pulled, makes it the children to understand take a month but it ends up tak- accelerate. Singh can now drive their requirements, which ing longer. “Sometimes, the his car without using his right include tiny details like the disabled are genuinely leg. height of the seat, and whether harassed. They cannot use pub- For people with a disability an additional belt would be lic transport, they have to take a in their left leg, Rodricks modi- necessary. cab.. it’s all expensive and trou- fies the gear stick — with the Only last year, Rodricks blesome. Such cases need to be press of a button on the stick, received a nod from the handled in a more sensitive the clutch is automatically Automotive Research manner.” pushed down. Association of India (ARAI), a Perhaps, similar to the way Rodricks has also received co-operative industrial research in which Rodricks handles his several calls from parents of association, that makes his cases — the aim being to children with cerebral palsy, to modifications ‘legal’. achieve mobility with dignity. design special car seats. “Till recently there was no “Getting them to sit in a system as far as approvals were