Of course…but as all things are, it’s complicated.
However, like with all new and shiny toys and apps, there’s still work to be done to ensure that everybody has access and that the buying power of $2 billion from the disability community gets to contribute to the continued success of our economy’s evolution. It’s a matter of “continuing disability rights in an uber-economy.”
One of the easiest ways to ensure that this happens is to educate businesses on how to be disability aware. There have been mixed signals from Uber and Lyft about their disability-aware services so we did some research.
A story came out in the LA Times about an Uber driver who was picking up a rider who is a wheelchair user. The driver had plenty of room for his wheelchair in her trunk, however, she refused to get out of her car and stow the wheelchair herself.
To corroborate these observations, we asked Rachel Weisberg from Equip for Equality for her perspective on the matter.
“Rideshare companies such as Uber and Lyft are transforming the transportation industry and it is critical that these companies comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and serve passengers with disabilities. The cases brought by people with disabilities against these companies allege violations of the ADA for failing to provide wheelchair accessible vehicles and discriminating against passengers with service animals. A threshold legal question in these cases is whether rideshare companies are covered by the ADA. While this is certainly an emerging area of the law, people with disabilities should take comfort in the fact that to date, courts have not agreed, as a matter of law, that rideshare companies should fall outside the scope of the ADA. Passengers with disabilities interested in using rideshare services should continue to advocate for greater accessibility as required by law and as a good business practice.”
Uber and Lyft are making this harder on themselves because there are easy ways through these questions. For example, they can offer Disability Awareness Training to their drivers during training sessions that they already have in place about some of the simple steps to take that make a world of difference, accessibility-wise. To take it even further, Uber and Lyft could and should offer a feature that allows riders to choose accessible vehicles such as Priuses, vans, or low-riding vehicles in their area. Drivers can also receive training on how to communicate with individuals who are deaf, sight-guide riders who are visually impaired, or simply have patience with those who require extra time.
All of this can be done within an hour or in the case of the disability-accessible option, within existing consumer-choice frameworks. Lyft, in particular, has done a great job of including deaf and hard of hearing drivers. However, disability awareness and accessibility continues to not be a one-size-fits-all approach and accessibility needs to be prioritized as a business asset as opposed to a liability.