Cab operators discriminating against persons with disabilities, says advocate

Asia-Pacific, Transportation, July 26 2017

CHENNAI, INDIA: Earlier this month, when disability rights activist Rajiv Rajan booked a shared ride on an app-based cab service, the driver arrived at his home and then refused to take him. “He saw me and said he wouldn’t take me. This is the second time in a month this has happened to me,” said Mr. Rajan, a wheelchair user, who could not make it to his appointment on time.

Taxi sign on a carPersons with disabilities in the city say that while many cab drivers are friendly and helpful, some create a fuss about wheelchairs. Companies need to conduct orientation programmes to sensitise their drivers on the needs of persons with disabilities, they point out. Also, they say, in most cabs, there is not enough space in the boot and carriers may not be available. Bigger cabs are simply not financially viable, they say.

“Some drivers do not like it when we have to keep wheelchairs in their cab. I usually put it in the space between the driver’s seat and the back seat. Carriers on cabs would be really helpful, as we could just keep the wheelchairs on top,” said Smitha Sadasivan of the Disability Rights Alliance.

Earlier this week, a professional in Delhi, who uses a wheelchair, posted on social media about her experience with a cab service, saying that she felt “humiliated and insulted” when drivers allegedly told her they were not happy about storing her wheelchair in their cabs. There should be a system to avoid such issues, she said.

Cab services are public services now, and should follow the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, said B. Meenakshi, of Equals, Centre for Promotion of Social Justice. “As it is, there is no accessible public transport system,” she said, adding that storing wheelchairs was just one aspect — everything from the app itself to getting into the car should ideally be accessible to persons with disabilities.

The platform Uber said it has a zero tolerance policy towards discrimination of any kind. “Additionally, we are committing to retrain and sensitise our driver partners for the special needs of our riders”, a statement from the company said.

In December 2015, the company launched uberASSIST to provide assistance to senior citizens and riders with disabilities.

The service was later discontinued. However, a spokesperson said it may be brought back.

A suit has been filed against Uber in New York, as per media reports, for discriminating against riders with disabilities in the city by providing scant access to wheelchair-accessible cars.

An email to Ola went unanswered.

Source: Hindu

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