Lyft Sued for Illegally Excluding Bay Area Wheelchair-Users

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Wheelchair-user trying to find a ride
Wheelchair-user trying to find a ride, Photo by Derek Mindler

For Immediate Release

Berkeley, CA (March 20, 2019)—Today, Disability Rights Advocates (DRA) filed a class action lawsuit against Lyft, challenging its failure to make its popular, on-demand ridesharing service available to people who need wheelchair-accessible vehicles in the Bay Area. The plaintiffs include Community Resources for Independent Living, Independent Living Resource Center San Francisco, and four Bay Area residents who use wheelchairs.

Lyft, which is on the verge of making an initial public offering, has become a critical transportation option in the Bay Area, providing over 600 million rides nationally in 2018. Lyft estimates that its services are now available to over 95% of the United States population—yet Lyft provides no wheelchair accessible vehicle service in the Bay Area, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Lyft and its competitor Uber have driven traditional taxi companies, which used to make accessible vehicles available, out of the market, leaving people who use wheelchairs without any accessible on-demand transit options in the Bay Area. “Rideshare companies like Lyft have made it almost impossible for those of us who used to take accessible taxis,” said Plaintiff Tara Ayres. “They have decreased our options and made it hard for us to get around. It’s not fair, and it’s illegal.”

Without access to the service, wheelchair users are often subjected to arduous journeys on public transportation, have to wait hours for paratransit, or simply have to stay home. For example, Plaintiff Julie Fuller has to plan her day around getting to medical appointments at a facility a ten-minute drive from her home, due to the unreliability of accessible transit options. “Transportation Network Companies are becoming the norm for how people get around in our area,” said Fiona Hinze, Community Organizer at Independent Living Resource Center San Francisco. “People who use wheelchairs deserve equal access to Lyft’s on-demand transportation that allows others to move around the city spontaneously.”

Dorene Giacopini, president of the board of Community Resources for Independent Living, said “Lyft has to stop ignoring people who use wheelchairs and start providing them with the same service it provides its other customers. It could change the lives of people, like CRIL’s consumers, who live in areas where there aren’t many accessible options.”

Lyft has been aware for years that it needs to provide service to people who need wheelchair accessible vehicles, but it has refused to make meaningful changes resulting in viable service.

Melissa Riess, staff attorney at Disability Rights Advocates, said, “Lyft knows its service discriminates against people who use wheelchairs, and it has had plenty of time and resources to fix this problem. We will hold them accountable until they comply with their obligation to provide equal access.”

The lawsuit seeks modifications to Lyft’s policies and practices to ensure that it makes wheelchair accessible vehicles readily available to persons who need them through its on-demand ridesharing services.   Plaintiffs do not seek monetary damages.

In addition to the case filed today against Lyft, DRA has filed cases against Uber in California for its failure to serve riders who use wheelchairs.  These cases are critical to protecting the rights of wheelchair-users throughout the country.

The complaint for this case can be found below.

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Independent Living Resource Center San Francisco (ILRC) works to ensure that people with disabilities are full social and economic partners within their families and within a fully accessible community. ILRC actively advocates on transportation issues and is a lead plaintiff in a case against BART for failing to ensure that people with disabilities can access the regional mass transit system. ilrcsf.org

Community Resources for Independent Living (CRIL) is a disability rights advocacy and support organization located in Hayward, California. CRIL supports people with disabilities in southern Alameda County to live independently, advocate for themselves, and access services, programs, activities, resources, and facilities in the community. CRIL participates in advocacy on a variety of issues affecting people with disabilities, including mobility and transportation. crilhayward.org

Disability Rights Advocates (DRA), founded in 1993, 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. dralegal.org

Contacts

Melissa Riess: (510) 665-8644, mriess@dralegal.org

Stuart Seaborn: (510) 665-8644, sseaborn@dralegal.org

Case Page

ILRC v. Lyft