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Monday, August 24, 2015

Public Protests Highlight Possible Disability Discrimination in Ridesharing Companies

Are companies like Über and Lyft required to make accommodations for disabled individuals?

The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) requires business owners to make areas of “public accommodation” reasonably accessible to those with disabilities. Generally speaking, areas of public accommodation are those sections of either a public or private sector building that are available to the public at large, including the common areas of retail stores, sidewalks, rental facilities, and service centers.

Of course, with a legal term like “public accommodation,” there is bound to be a great deal of demand for interpretation given the specific and unique facts of each situation. For instance, how does the law apply to a ridesharing company like Über, which offers taxi services to hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers on a daily basis? For the 900,000 residents of New York City with a physical disability, recent protests solidified their assertion that Über has a responsibility to expand its fleet to include accessible vehicles, and Über’s vehicles should be considered areas of public accommodation.

On the flip side, Über has argued that it is too cost prohibitive to make the necessary acquisitions of accessible vehicles, especially when there is an alternative available through the city’s green taxis. However, as several hundred protestors have pointed out, green taxis are not permitted to service fares below 96th street – a law which Über has vowed to help change.

Overall, there are just 581 wheelchair accessible yellow taxis, and approximately 1,800 green taxis in circulation to help transport the city’s 900,000 disabled residents – a number anti-discrimination activities believe is way too low.

It has yet to be determined whether Über will be mandated to include accessible vehicles in its fleet, however the law will likely exempt a private ridesharing company from mandatory compliance with ADA public accommodation standards.

If you are experiencing disability-based discrimination, or would like to discuss your recent experiences with a knowledgeable disability attorney, please contact the Seelig Law Offices at 212-766-0600.


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