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Disability-Rights Groups Charge Uber with Discrimination

Half of all yellow-medallion taxis in New York City must be wheelchair accessible by 2020. (Mr.choppers/Wikimedia Commons)
Half of all yellow-medallion taxis in New York City must be wheelchair accessible by 2020. (Mr.choppers/Wikimedia Commons)
July 19, 2017

NEW YORK - Advocates for people with disabilities want Uber to comply with the law by providing more vehicles that are wheelchair accessible.

A coalition of groups in New York City has filed a class-action lawsuit against Uber, claiming that the ride-hailing company discriminates against people with mobility impairments. According to Michele Caiola, litigation director at Disability Rights Advocates, Uber now has a fleet of about 58,000 vehicles operating in the city's five boroughs.

"There's something around 60 or so that are actually wheelchair accessible," she said, "which is just infinitesimally small when considering the entire fleet."

Uber does offer a service for hailing wheelchair-accessible cars, but a study in Washington, D.C., found users of UberWAV waited eight times longer and paid up to twice as much for service as did other Uber customers.

Similar lawsuits have been filed against Uber in Chicago and Washington, charging the company with violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act. However, Caiola said, this suit was filed in New York state court.

"We filed this under the New York City human-rights law, a very progressive anti-discrimination statute, which requires that all public accommodations be made accessible to people with disabilities," she said.

The lawsuit isn't seeking monetary damages. The plaintiffs simply ask that Uber provide an appropriate number of accessible vehicles.

Caiola said only about 20 percent of the city's subway stations are wheelchair accessible, so bringing Uber into compliance with the law would be a major victory.

"This would be an incredible benefit for persons with disabilities," she said, "especially in light of the fact that people that are using wheelchairs or have other mobility disabilities just have a dearth of options in the city."

The settlement of a similar lawsuit four years ago requires that 50 percent of all yellow-medallion taxis in New York City be accessible by 2020.

More information is online at dralegal.org.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NY