Uber Sued By Disability Rights Groups For Illegal Discrimination Against Wheelchair Users
Photo by Philippe Perreaux, CC BY 2.0.
Berkeley, CA (February 27, 2018)—Today, Disability Rights Advocates (DRA) filed a major class action lawsuit against Uber challenging the popular ride-sharing service’s lack of wheelchair-accessible vehicles. The suit, brought by a coalition of individuals and disability rights groups in the San Francisco Bay Area, is the first legal challenge to Uber’s wheelchair-inaccessibility on its home turf. The plaintiffs—Independent Living Resource Center of San Francisco, Community Resources for Independent Living, and three individuals who use wheelchairs—brought this action to end Uber’s discriminatory practices and policies.
The case challenges Uber’s failure to provide wheelchair-accessible service as a violation of California anti-discrimination law. Wheelchair users cannot rely on Uber as a transportation option because wheelchair-accessible Ubers are rarely, if ever, available. Although Uber advertises a wheelchair accessible service (“Uber WAV”) in the Bay Area, investigations found that in Alameda County, Uber WAV service is simply not available. In San Francisco, 80% of the time, Uber WAV service is unavailable. When it is, a customer may wait as much as 14 times longer than they would for a non-WAV Uber ride.
People who use wheelchairs in the Bay Area already have limited transportation options. Many parts of the BART system are inaccessible due to poor elevator maintenance and other problems. Bus service is often slow and may not take riders where they need to go. Uber has become an important transportation option in the Bay Area, and, if the company provided equal and non-discriminatory service, it could provide a great benefit to people who use wheelchair accessible vehicles. 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, or exclude them altogether – in direct violation of the law.
Uber is already facing litigation regarding its failure to provide WAV service in a number of other major cities in the US, including New York City, Washington, D.C., and Chicago. Plaintiffs do not seek monetary damages, but instead seek to achieve equal access to Uber for themselves and the class. Their ultimate goal is to ensure that Uber institutes a comprehensive remedial scheme to address its current exclusion of riders with mobility disabilities.
Jessie Lorenz, Executive Director of the Independent Living Resource Center of San Francisco, said, “Uber is such an important transportation option in the Bay Area, and many of our consumers who use wheelchairs are simply excluded from it because Uber has done nothing to make its service accessible to them. We are deeply disappointed in Uber’s continued resistance to following the laws that keep transportation services open to everyone.”
Chris Finn, an empowerment speaker, power wheelchair soccer coach and advocate for people with disabilities who is a board member of Community Resources for Independent Living, stated, “People with mobility disabilities could really benefit from the convenience and independence and flexibility of being able to order an Uber ride. Uber’s failure to make its transportation network accessible to people who use wheelchair accessible vehicles discriminates against a community of people who should be able to access this valuable service.”
Judith Smith, Founder and Artistic Director Emerita of Axis Dance Company, said, “Uber would be such a game-changer if it were accessible to people in motorized wheelchairs. But instead, Uber has completely excluded people like me from being able to just call an Uber like everyone else.”
Melissa Riess, staff attorney at Disability Rights Advocates, said, “If Uber is going to be the transportation of the future, it needs to make wheelchair accessible Ubers part of that future. It is disgraceful that even in its hometown, Uber has ignored its obligation to make its service available to all people equally.”
Independent Living Resource Center of 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) 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 disability, 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