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Wheelchair Users Protest Uber's Discriminatory Practices

  • Published: 2015-08-02 (Revised/Updated 2015-08-06) : Author: United Spinal Association : Contact:
  • Synopsis: United Spinal Association, Taxis For All Campaign and wheelchair user advocates call on Uber to end discriminatory practices and start serving disabled persons.

United Spinal Association, Taxis For All Campaign and other wheelchair user advocates held a "roll-in" outside Uber's West Side headquarters in Manhattan, calling on the company to end its discriminatory practices and to start serving wheelchair users, blind people and other disabled persons in New York City and around the U.S.

Uber Technologies Inc. is an American international transportation network company headquartered in San Francisco, California. The company develops, markets and operates the Uber mobile app, which allows consumers with smartphones to submit a trip request which is then routed to Uber drivers who use their own cars.

In some markets, where leasing arrangements for vehicles are available, the only requirement for driving for Uber, other than appropriate age, health, and ability to drive, is passing a background check. Both a smartphone, called a "device" by Uber, and a vehicle may be leased.

Uber's pricing is similar to that of metered taxis, although all hiring and payment is handled exclusively through Uber and not with the driver personally. The legality of Uber has been challenged by governments and taxi companies, who allege that its use of drivers who are not licensed to drive taxicabs is unsafe and illegal. By mid 2015, Uber was estimated to be worth $50B. It is estimated that Uber will generate $10 billion in revenue by the end of 2015.

The protesters urged Mayor de Blasio, the City Council and the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) to enforce rules and pass new legislation that would require Uber and other app-based taxi services to serve wheelchair users.

"Uber's zeal to replace the soon to be 50% accessible yellow cab industry coupled with their refusal to operate even a single accessible vehicle is jeopardizing the taxi option for wheelchair and scooter users," said James Weisman, President and CEO of United Spinal Association.

"The needs and rights of people with disabilities should not be ignored on the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act," added Weisman.

United Spinal Members protesting Ubers lack of wheelchair accessible cars - Picture Credit: United Spinal AssociationAbout This Image: United Spinal Members protesting Ubers lack of wheelchair accessible cars - Picture Credit: United Spinal AssociationTLC records show that at least 20,777 Uber vehicles are on city streets, along with thousands more Uber drivers, but not one Uber vehicle is wheelchair-accessible.

Accessible taxis typically have a ramp that allows wheelchair and power chair users to roll into and out of the vehicle.

Holding signs reading, "Uber-UNFAIR," "Uber: NOT innovating, JUST discriminating" and "Uber: Stop Your Old Time Discrimination," wheelchair and scooter users and their supporters noted that 25 years after the Americans with Disabilities Act became law, the six-year-old company has consistently rejected direct appeals to offer accessible service here or in other cities

"Uber says it's revolutionizing the taxi business, but what it's really doing is engaging in old-style discrimination," said protest organizer Jean Ryan, a Taxis For All leader and a vice president at Disabled In Action.

The Taxis For All Campaign was the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit filed by Disability Rights Advocates against the Taxi and Limousine Commission, which won a commitment from the City of New York for a 50% accessible yellow taxi fleet by 2020.

"Why should Uber get away without serving people in wheelchairs like me, while yellow taxis are finally starting to meet their obligation?" Ryan asked.

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