While Uber has transformed transportation in New York City, there is one area in which the innovative company has often lagged behind the yellow cab industry—providing wheelchair accessible transportation for New Yorkers with disabilities.
Now a Brooklyn woman has taken the ride-sharing company to court. In a new lawsuit, the disabled New Yorker says that Uber’s app purporting to link customers to wheelchair-accessible yellow or green cabs does not work. In court papers, she calls it “a paltry smokescreen.”
Uber promotes the service as a solution for the disabled, who often have difficulty navigating around town. While there are wheelchair-accessible yellow cabs and other mass transit options, these can involve delays, higher costs, and other logistical problems.
For the plaintiff in this case, Uber’s service has not lived up to its promises. She tried it twice, in Brooklyn and in Manhattan. Three attempts in the course of an hour in East New York, using the UberWAV platform, failed to result in an accessible taxi. She claims that the lack of response left her without the same level of service that would have been available to able-bodied passengers in an otherwise identical situation.
In Manhattan, the plaintiff had to wait 40 minutes and was cancelled on twice before she finally found a cab that would accept her, an experience she described in a separate complaint to the New York Human Rights Commission,
The plaintiff brought the case under New York City’s and New York State’s human rights laws, seeking to have Uber classified as a public accommodation, as taxis are.
New York City has over 2000 wheel-chair accessible yellow and green taxis — approximately 10% of its fleet — with a goal of making half the fleet wheelchair friendly. The city has plans to expand its wheelchair cab dispatch system citywide. There is also Access-A-Ride, a van service the MTA provides for eligible customers.
To the plaintiff in the case, these alternatives are no substitute for Uber meeting its obligations to the disabled. The lack of access to Uber, says the plaintiff, prevents her from leading her life in a way comparable to what other New Yorkers experience.
While Uber has not commented on the lawsuit, disability advocates have often complained of Uber’s lack of accessible vehicles among its drivers.
Customers with disabilities are often denied services that able-bodied customers take for granted. If you feel you have been mistreated because of a disability, an expert in New York disability law can help you determine whether you have a strong claim and, if so, what the best legal strategy is for bringing a lawsuit.