Should ride-sharing companies do more to embrace disabled riders?

Should ride-sharing companies do more to embrace disabled riders?
2016-11-18 15:14:39 UTC
LOCAL NEWS BUSINESS TRAVEL TIPS

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While ride-sharing companies (Uber, Lyft, etc.) and taxi companies are battling it out over airport customers, background checks and zoning issues, the decrease in drivers will add much more fuel to the fire. In a 2016 report from the University of Michigan, a few age ranges without driver’s licenses are particularly noteworthy:

* Ages 20 to 24 in 1983 (91.8 percent); in 2008 (82 percent); in 2011 (79.7 percent); in 2014 (76.7 percent)

* Ages 60 to 64 in 1983 (83.3 percent); in 2008 (95.9 percent); in 2011 (92.7 percent); in 2014 (92.1 percent)

* Ages 70 and older in 1983 (55 percent); in 2008 (78.4 percent); in 2011 (79.2 percent); in 2014 (79 percent)


Teenagers used to be ecstatic to get their driver’s licenses and want to borrow their parents’ car. Now? It just may be more convenient to type in a few buttons on a mobile app or jump on the bus or train to get where they have to go.

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One issue that continues to play the background that should probably be of concern more often to paid drivers of ride-sharing companies is those pedestrians that may not be able to drive at all and who depend on other drivers more often to get around. This group may be getting ignored by ride-sharing companies, and the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) is not impressed: Those who qualify for disability and need vehicles that are wheelchair accessible. In the latest Census report, approximately 30.6 million people had difficulty walking or climbing stairs, or use a wheelchair, cane, crutches or walker, and this crew needs to get around, too.

But then there is a group that’s continuously being ignored by ride-sharing companies, and the Americans With Disabilities Act is not impressed: Those who qualify for disability and need vehicles that are wheelchair accessible. In the latest Census report, approximately 30.6 million people had difficulty walking or climbing stairs, or use a wheelchair, cane, crutches or walker, and this crew needs to get around, too.

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While those 80 and over are eight times more likely to be severely disabled than those under 15, one in 20 are between the ages of 15 to 24. And even if they’re traveling with an older companion, if the younger person doesn’t drive, that means it’s even more important to be able to depend on other drivers to get them where they need to go. And public transportation companies such as Pace Paratransit Service come in handy, but rides must be scheduled the day before so a sporadic night on the town or even a quick run to the store just can’t happen with these assisted bus rides. This is one of many reasons why more consumer eyes are on ride-sharing companies.

Access Living of Metropolitan Chicago has a lawsuit against Uber for not supplying these vehicles more often. According to Chicago Sun Times, UberWAV is provided for riders who need lifts or ramps but those vehicles are hard to come by in the Windy City. Compare the 2 million rides in June 2015 versus the grand total of 14 Uber rides for motorized wheelchairs from 2011 to 2016, according to the Sun Times report, and it’s pretty easy to understand why ADA riders are upset.

By Uber working with independent contractors, they have the right to accept and/or reject any rider(s) they want to due to concerns about physical liability. But each time they do, they threaten the reputation of Uber so it may be easier to just not accept the job at all. Financially the ride-sharing companies may lose money. For example, if two friends want to go out for a night on the town and refuse to ride separately, chances are the friend who is an ADA pedestrian will just wait for the cab that is wheelchair accessible and ditch the idea of a ride-sharing company altogether. That’s a taxi company’s gain and that other company’s loss.”

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Legally, and courtesy of the July 26, 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the overall law “prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, state and local government programs, public accommodations, commercial facilities, transportation, and telecommunications.” However, the ADA law does confirm that “taxicabs that are sedans are not required to be wheelchair accessible.”

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And guess what the minimum regulation is to be a part-time or full-time Uber driver? A “4-door vehicle model year 2001 or newer,” but it says nothing about ADA accessibility. But Uber does have policy wording about “Riders with ambulatory disabilities” and reports of discrimination “will result in temporary account deactivation while Uber reviews the incident.” (In all fairness, Lyft’s 19-point vehicle inspection doesn’t require the vehicles to be ADA accessible either. Lyft’s Wheelchair Policy does point out that drivers will be contacted for turning down wheelchair riders to find out whether it was justifiable or not.)

But legally what can a pedestrian do when he/she disagrees with a ride-sharing company’s decision that a driver is justified? The first step is to give the company a chance to talk to the driver. The second step is to give the company a chance to inform the potential customer of what actions were taken. After that, consult an attorney. 


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