• By: Katie Hartai

The city’s kindest chauffeurs

Photos courtesy of Wheels for the Wise

If you or a loved one struggle with mobility issues, take a word from the wise and contact Ottawa’s driver-companion service.

Launched in 2011 by 27-year-old entrepreneur Jana Mitchell, Wheels for the Wise Inc. is a form of safe transportation for senior citizens and others in need of traveling assistance. Unique to the program, clients are provided with a ride, help moving outside of the vehicle and a comforting friend.

“Wheels for the Wise is like killing two birds with one stone,” explains Mitchell. “We offer the transportation as well as accompaniment.”

The business provides physical and emotional support for clients commuting to and from responsibilities, like grocery shopping, religious practices and social events. Upon request the company will also sit in on medical appointments as a notetaker for family members and nursing homes.

“One of the things seniors are looking for is to prolong their independence,” says Mitchell. “Having mobility and being able to remain active in the community, attend appointments and socialize with friends was a service that was lacking.”

unnamedClients are cared for by a team of professional employees trained in CPR, First Aid and are AED certified. They have been cleared by police checks for working with vulnerable individuals and hold clean driver abstracts. All employees drive eco-friendly Malibu Hybrid 4-door sedans to keep their carbon footprint at a minimal.

“Why not try to help preserve the environment at the same time as helping people that really need you,” says Mitchell.

The business has been rapidly growing every year and is currently servicing over 250 residences in Ottawa. Clients are mainly maturing citizens, but people of all ages with mobility issues are welcome to use the program especially as the cold weather sets in.

“Every year it always gets busier in the winter,” Mitchell comments. “We always tell people to plan ahead make sure that they give us as much notice as possible.”

Ottawa’s taxi union has criticized the transportation service since it was founded for hurting their profits and not following up with similar inspections on their drivers. Mitchell however is not concerned.

“We operate 100 per cent above board and the City of Ottawa knows that and the transportation bylaws know that. Competition in any form, even though we are not in direct competition with them, keeps prices down and quality of service high in any industry.”

She understands the concern taxi drivers have, but explains Wheels for the Wise offers an entirely different customer experience.

“We are not picking people up and dropping them off somewhere. It is very much accompanied,” she says.

The young CEO takes a lot of pride in her job, describing the interaction with clients to be rewarding.

“When you have somebody that hasn’t been able to get out of the retirement facility in maybe six months and even though you are only taking them to a medical outing, they are so grateful just to go out,” she says. “At the end of the day it keeps you very humble.”

To learn more about Wheels for the Wise, visit their website or Facebook page.