Uber’s Lack of Accessible Vehicles Shuts Out Wheelchair Users in All Five Boroughs

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A wheelchair user is in a crosswalk facing some yellow taxis.
Photo by Derek Mindler, CC BY 2.0

July 18, 2017—New York, New York—Disability Rights Advocates (DRA), a national nonprofit legal center, filed a major class action today against Uber on behalf of a broad coalition of disability groups and disabled individuals in New York City, because Uber is 99.9% inaccessible to people with mobility disabilities.

The lawsuit, filed in New York Supreme Court in Manhattan, alleges violations of anti-discrimination law on behalf of a class of disabled individuals who use wheelchairs and want to use Uber transportation in New York City. In the last few years, Uber has grown exponentially, transforming the transportation landscape in the City, while showing total disregard for the rights of people with disabilities. Uber boasts a fleet of approximately 58,000 vehicles currently operating in the five boroughs, but fewer than 100 of them offer the lifts or ramps necessary to transport people using wheelchairs or other mobility-assistive devices.

Plaintiffs Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled, the Taxis For All Campaign, Disabled In Action of Metropolitan New York, and individuals who use wheelchairs, brought this action to end Uber’s discriminatory business practices. With Uber providing so few wheelchair-accessible vehicles, which Uber calls its “UberWAV” service, people needing accessibility face lengthy delays if they can get a vehicle at all.

Transportation options are already sorely lacking for people who use wheelchairs in New York City. The subway system is mostly inaccessible, buses can be slow and do not reach all neighborhoods at all hours, and Access-A-Ride, the transit system’s paratransit service, provides abysmal service.  Uber could provide a great benefit to people with mobility disabilities, if it provided equal and non-discriminatory service. Instead, Uber, a company valued at over $50 billion, has chosen to neglect people with disabilities who use wheelchairs and to provide them with inferior service in direct violation of the law.

“UberWAV makes up only .1% of the 58,000 vehicle fleet. It’s just window dressing designed to skirt anti-discrimination laws,” said Michelle Caiola, Director of Litigation at DRA’s New York Office. “Uber must not be allowed to operate in New York City in a discriminatory manner.  It must ensure its convenience and benefits are available to all people equally.”

“Uber claims it’s a revolutionary company, but it’s engaged in old-fashioned discrimination against people with disabilities from its first day in New York City,” said Joe Rappaport, Executive Director of the lawsuit’s lead organizational plaintiff, Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled. “Our lawsuit against Uber’s discrimination makes it clear: It’s 2017, not the 1950s, when it comes to equal access to transportation.”

“Taxi and livery services like Uber are as much a part of New York City’s transportation network as buses and subways, which makes Uber’s discriminatory and illegal practices even more angering for potential customers like me,” said Edith Prentiss, Chair of the Taxis For All Campaign.

The Taxis For All Campaign was the lead plaintiff in a landmark DRA lawsuit, settled in 2013, which requires 50% of all yellow medallion taxis to be accessible by 2020.

“The disability community has advocated for years to gain equal access to all transit options, including Uber. We file this suit because Uber has utterly refused to make its services available to riders with disabilities,” said Anthony Trocchia, President of Disabled in Action of Metropolitan New York.

Plaintiffs do not seek monetary damages, but seek only to achieve equal access to Uber’s services.

A copy of the Complaint can be found below.

About Disability Rights Advocates

Founded in 1993, Disability Rights Advocates (DRA) is the leading national nonprofit disability rights legal center.  Its mission is to advance equal rights and opportunity for people with all types of disabilities nationwide.  DRA represents people with the full spectrum of disabilities in complex, system-changing, class action cases.  Thanks to DRA’s precedent-setting work, people with disabilities across the country have dramatically improved access to health care, employment, transportation, education, disaster preparedness planning, voting and housing.  DRA has brought numerous cases advocating for accessible transportation, including Taxis For All Campaign v. Taxi and Limousine Commission (2011) (reaching a settlement for 50% accessible NYC taxis), National Federation for the Blind v. Uber Technologies (2014) (reaching a settlement to stop refusals of service to blind people traveling with service animals), Stokes v. Total Transit, Inc. (2015) (regarding higher pricing for people who use accessible taxis), and Center for Independence of Individuals with Disabilities v. Serra Yellow Cab (2016) (regarding higher pricing for people who use accessible taxis). For more information, visit www.dralegal.org.

About Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled (BCID)

Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled, founded in 1956, is part of the independent living movement, which seeks to empower all people with disabilities to live full, independent lives. Our staff, composed largely of people with disabilities, offers services and runs advocacy campaigns to make housing, transportation and other aspects of daily living accessible to all. BCID has worked closely on several accessibility campaigns with Disability Rights Advocates. DRA represents us in BCID v. Bloomberg, which required the City of New York to agree to new evacuation procedures for people with disabilities after Hurricane Sandy; and Taxis For All Campaign v. Taxi and Limousine Commission, a landmark decision requiring 50% of New York City’s yellow taxis to be accessible by 2020. For more information, visit http://bcid.org/.

About Disabled in Action of Metropolitan New York (DIA)

Founded in 1970, Disabled in Action of Metropolitan New York is a democratic, nonprofit membership organization consist primarily of and is directed by people with disabilities. DIA is a civil rights organization committed to ending discrimination against people with disabilities. DIA fully embraces the empowering motto “Nothing about us, without us!” For more information, visit http://www.disabledinaction.org/.

About Taxis For All Campaign

The Taxis For All Campaign is a coalition of the city’s leading disability organizations in New York City, including the Bronx Independent Living Services, Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled, Center for Independence of the Disabled in New York, Disabilities Network of New York City, Disabled in Action of Metropolitan New York, 504 Democratic Club, Harlem Independent Living Center, and United Spinal Association. Formed in 1996 to advocate for wheelchair-accessible taxis and liveries, the campaign was the lead plaintiff in Taxis For All Campaign v. Taxi and Limousine Commission, a landmark case brought by DRA that requires 50% of yellow medallion taxis in New York City to be wheelchair-accessible by 2020.

Contacts

Michelle Caiola, Disability Rights Advocates, Director of Litigation: (212) 644-8644
Rebecca Serbin, Disability Rights Advocates, Staff Attorney: (212) 644-8644