Lawsuit Challenges Discriminatory Charge for Wheelchair Accessible Taxi Service
Phoenix, AZ – November 19, 2015 – A class action lawsuit filed today in the United States District Court for the District of Arizona alleges that Total Transit Inc. (“TTI”), doing business as Discount Cab, violates federal and state law by charging wheelchair users a $10.00 fee per trip – in addition to the standard fare – because they require accessible taxis. TTI is a large transportation provider in the Southwest, and Discount Cab is one of the largest taxi companies in the United States. The complaint alleges that Discount Cab’s policy discriminates against persons with mobility disabilities and violates both the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Arizonans with Disabilities Act.
The suit is brought by three individual Plaintiffs who use wheelchairs because of mobility disabilities, and who need a lift or a ramp to board a taxi. Plaintiffs have used Discount Cab or sought to use Discount Cab but were charged or deterred by the charge of an additional $10 for the taxi trip. Plaintiffs are represented by Disability Rights Advocates and the Arizona Center for Disability Law, both non-profit organizations specializing in litigation on behalf of people with disabilities.
In Arizona, Discount Cab operates a fleet of more than 1,100 taxis, of which 132 are wheelchair accessible. TTI is a comprehensive “mobility management” company which provides fixed route transit and paratransit in addition to retail taxi service. TTI has operations throughout Arizona and in several other states, including Colorado and Utah.
Bill Stokes, one of the Plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said, “We are not looking for preferential treatment from Discount Cab. We are just looking for the same taxi ride, for the same price, as everyone else. It’s prejudicial for Discount Cab to charge us this extra fee because of our wheelchairs.”
“Discount Cab told me that the $10.00 charge was because I needed an accessible van,” said Plaintiff Jennifer Longdon. “But a person who needs an accessible taxi does not have the choice to ride in a different type of vehicle. I believe the surcharge violates the ADA and needs to be corrected. We tried to address this through dialog, but Discount was not open to education on the ADA.”
Plaintiff Donna Powers agreed. “For me, this case is about equality. I should have the same opportunity to use Discount Cab’s services as someone without a disability. There shouldn’t be additional fees or obstacles in the way,” she said.
Jessica Jansepar Ross, Staff Attorney at the Arizona Center for Disability Law, said, “We appreciate that Discount Cab includes accessible vans in its fleet to provide lifts and ramps to individuals with mobility impairments: this is good for the community and good for Discount Cab’s business. But the additional costs of operating accessible vans should not be passed on to people with disabilities.”
Mary-Lee Smith, Co-Director of Litigation at Disability Rights Advocates, said, “Transportation can be a real challenge for people with mobility disabilities, who often don’t have access to their own vehicle and who frequently can’t depend on paratransit because it is unreliable. Accessible taxis facilitate societal integration for persons with disabilities, and Discount Cab’s $10 charge undermines this potential.”
About Disability Rights Advocates (DRA)
With offices in New York and California, Disability Rights Advocates is one of the leading non-profit disability rights legal centers in the nation. DRA’s mission is to advance equal rights and opportunities for people with all types of disabilities nationwide. As a part of that mission, DRA recently entered into a landmark settlement that dramatically improves access to taxis in New York City for people with mobility disabilities, increasing the number of accessible taxis from 2% of the fleet to 50% of the fleet. www.dralegal.org
About The Arizona Center for Disability Law (ACDL)
ACDL is the Protection and Advocacy System for Arizona and a nonprofit law firm dedicated to advocating for the rights of individuals with a wide range of physical, mental, psychiatric, sensory, and cognitive disabilities. ACDL’s mission is to advocate for the legal rights of persons with disabilities to be free from abuse, neglect and discrimination and to gain access to services, maximizing independence and achieving equality. www.azdisabilitylaw.org
Rose Daly-Rooney, Arizona Center for Disability Law
(520) 327-9547 ext. 323
Mary-Lee Smith, Disability Rights Advocates