I just read an article by Ted Trautman titled, “Will Uber Serve Customers With Disabilities?” This article highlights that peer-to-peer ride sharing companies, like Uber and Lyft, are generally not accessible for customers who use wheelchairs. Trautman investigates the complicated issue of how to make these non-traditional transportation alternatives more accessible, and what these companies and disability advocates are doing to find a solution.
Peer-to-peer ride sharing companies offer new and different ways to directly connect drivers and customers through technology. These new companies are not yet regulated in the same way as traditional cab companies and the drivers often use their own personal vehicles, which are almost always not accessible.
This is clearly not a simple problem that will be answered with a simple solution. I absolutely think that these companies should have accessible options for their customers with disabilities, but this issue is complicated by the fact that the drivers often use their personal cars. Ridesharing is a creative concept that was turned into a highly popular and profitable business model. I challenge companies like Uber and Lyft to use the same innovative thinking in order to come up with accessible options for their customers. Trautman pointed out that some smaller ridesharing companies, like Summon based in San Francisco, have already come up with some creative ideas. Trautman wrote, “This month [Summon] introduced a financial incentive for drivers with wheelchair-accessible vehicles to pick up customers in wheelchairs.” He also gave the example of Uber, who recently “launched a pilot program in Chicago in which wheelchair-accessible taxis operated by third parties – yellow cabs in the traditional, medallion-based system – will appear in the Uber app whenever [Uber] can’t supply wheelchair-accessible vehicles.” However, according to Trautman, solutions like Uber’s in Chicago don’t fully address the problem and are not catching on quickly enough.
I think that companies like Uber and Lyft shouldn’t wait around for regulations to force them to provide accessible options, but instead work to serve their customers with disabilities by using creative solutions. Some ideas could be using financial incentives to encourage accessible options for customers, training their staff in disability awareness best practices, and empowering their customers with disabilities to review the accessibility and overall customer service experience.
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About the Author:
Sarah Armour is the Business Assistant at jjslist.com. She enjoys managing the website, bookkeeping, coordinating the Disability-Awareness Trainings and organizing the Hop on the Bus to Independence Program. She graduated from Loras College in Dubuque, IA, in 2008 with a BA in Sociology. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter.