Groups sue Uber for denying equal access to wheelchair users

Americas, News, Transportation, June 29 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C.: The Equal Rights Center is suing Uber for denying equal access to its services for persons with disabilities. Uber has failed to accommodate customers in wheelchairs, with policies that inhibit access for wheelchair users or provide them with watered-down options, depriving them of the ability to use the door-to-door UberX service, and instead, directs them to the limited number of accessible DC taxi cabs through their “TAXI WAV” (wheelchair accessible vehicle) option.

Uber LogoThe lawsuit also alleges that none of the 30,000 or more vehicles operated by Uber drivers in the District is capable of transporting individuals who use wheelchairs that cannot be folded and stowed in a trunk.  As a result, wheelchair users are deprived of the opportunity to ride in Uber-affiliated vehicles, and subjected to substantially longer wait times and higher fares as compared to other Uber customers.

Uber’s failure to ensure a comparable level of service for wheelchair users in the District of Columbia violates Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires companies like Uber to provide “full and equal enjoyment” of Uber’s services.  ERC also alleges that Uber has violated the D.C. Human Rights Act, which provides that people with disabilities shall have “an equal opportunity to participate fully in the economic, cultural and intellectual life of the District,” including transportation and tech company services.  ERC is represented by the civil rights firm, Relman, Dane & Colfax, PLLC and Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs.

ERC conducted a civil rights testing investigation that compared the experience of customers using “UberX”, Uber’s most popular application option, to customers using Uber’s “TAXI WAV” option.  Test results revealed that wheelchair users waited an average of eight times longer for an accessible vehicle to arrive and paid as much as twice as much in fares. The investigation also established that, on occasion, no accessible vehicles were available at all.

ERC Executive Director Melvina Ford comments: “Uber is not exempt from anti-discrimination laws. It has a legal obligation to ensure that individuals with disabilities can access its transportation services without excessive costs and wait times.  This is a problem we know Uber can fix.”

“Uber had the power to design and implement services in the District that connect wheelchair users to employment and educational opportunities, support services and cultural events.  It just chose not to do so.  By flouting federal and local accessibility laws, Uber deprives wheelchair users of the life-changing benefits of the convenient, affordable, on-demand services that Uber delivers to its customers who don’t use wheelchairs.” said Michael Allen, a partner at Relman, Dane & Colfax.

“Federal and local disability laws require companies such as Uber to provide full and equal enjoyment of their services to the disability community.  Uber’s practices not only deny such enjoyment, but convey to the disability community that its patronage is not wanted.” Matthew Handley, Director of Litigation at the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs.


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