Uber sued again over discriminating riders with disabilities

Americas, Transportation, July 20 2017

NEW YORK: Disability Rights Advocates (DRA), a national nonprofit legal center, filed a major class action against Uber on behalf of a broad coalition of disability groups and individuals with disabilities in New York City, because Uber is 99.9% inaccessible to people with mobility disabilities.

Wheelchair User

Photo: Derek Mindler/Flickr

The lawsuit, filed in New York Supreme Court in Manhattan, alleges violations of anti-discrimination law on behalf of a class of persons with disabilities who use wheelchairs and want to use Uber transportation in New York City. In the last few years, Uber has grown exponentially, transforming the transportation landscape in the City, while showing total disregard for the rights of people with disabilities. Uber boasts a fleet of approximately 58,000 vehicles currently operating in the five boroughs, but fewer than 100 of them offer the lifts or ramps necessary to transport people using wheelchairs or other mobility-assistive devices.

Plaintiffs Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled, the Taxis For All Campaign, Disabled In Action of Metropolitan New York, and individuals who use wheelchairs, brought this action to end Uber’s discriminatory business practices. With Uber providing so few wheelchair-accessible vehicles, which Uber calls its “UberWAV” service, people needing accessibility face lengthy delays if they can get a vehicle at all.

Transportation options are already sorely lacking for people who use wheelchairs in New York City. The subway system is mostly inaccessible, buses can be slow and do not reach all neighborhoods at all hours, and Access-A-Ride, the transit system’s paratransit service, provides abysmal service.  Uber could provide a great benefit to people with mobility disabilities, if it provided equal and non-discriminatory service. Instead, Uber, a company valued at over $50 billion, has chosen to neglect people with disabilities who use wheelchairs and to provide them with inferior service in direct violation of the law.

“UberWAV makes up only .1% of the 58,000 vehicle fleet. It’s just window dressing designed to skirt anti-discrimination laws,” said Michelle Caiola, Director of Litigation at DRA’s New York Office. “Uber must not be allowed to operate in New York City in a discriminatory manner.  It must ensure its convenience and benefits are available to all people equally.”

“Uber claims it’s a revolutionary company, but it’s engaged in old-fashioned discrimination against people with disabilities from its first day in New York City,” said Joe Rappaport, Executive Director of the lawsuit’s lead organizational plaintiff, Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled. “Our lawsuit against Uber’s discrimination makes it clear: It’s 2017, not the 1950s, when it comes to equal access to transportation.”

“Taxi and livery services like Uber are as much a part of New York City’s transportation network as buses and subways, which makes Uber’s discriminatory and illegal practices even more angering for potential customers like me,” said Edith Prentiss, Chair of the Taxis For All Campaign.

The Taxis For All Campaign was the lead plaintiff in a landmark DRA lawsuit, settled in 2013, which requires 50% of all yellow medallion taxis to be accessible by 2020.

“The disability community has advocated for years to gain equal access to all transit options, including Uber. We file this suit because Uber has utterly refused to make its services available to riders with disabilities,” said Anthony Trocchia, President of Disabled in Action of Metropolitan New York.

Plaintiffs do not seek monetary damages, but seek only to achieve equal access to Uber’s services.

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