Accessibility Problems of Ridesourcing

In the past 8 years, mobile technology has exploded in the consumer market.  With around 64{4484a610ba12ad46baec767347073917e486819a83b2d744ced0feda89144e79} of adults having smartphones, it’s changed the way people live their lives.  As long as you have a data signal and some battery life, it seems you can do just about anything with a few taps of your screen.

As old businesses have struggled to adapt their dated models to this radically new market, many newcomers have entered the scene to take advantage of this powerful technology.  One industry that has seen a particularly dramatic shift in the past couple years is the cab industry.

In their place, a number of companies have carved out a brand new niche that’s taking a serious amount of business.  They call themselves Network Transportation Companies.

You might not recognize the industry title, but there’s a very good chance you’ve heard of its forerunners Lyft and Uber.

The trouble is, though these companies offer a lot of convenience to their users (and often at a lower price than a taxi), they’re not bound to the same rules and regulations as taxis.  Specifically in the way of handicap accessibility.

What is a Network Transportation Company?

An NTC is a company that provides something called ridesourcing.  The concept is simple.  Person A wants a ride to their destination.  Person B is willing to give them a ride in exchange for money.  The NTC brings these two people together through a smartphone app.

While that sounds very similar to a traditional taxi company, there are a few key differences.  Uber and Lyft drivers aren’t certified drivers.  They don’t have a special license outside of the standard driver’s license.  While they have to pass a background check and there are specific requirements, they’re not an actual employee of the company they drive for.

They’re just everyday people who are willing to give rides to strangers for money.

Because of this, they’re free from many transportation regulation.  While many of their customers aren’t too affected by this, those with a disability have had continuous trouble with ridesourcing drivers.

No Dogs Allowed

Michael Forzana is a computer program who uses a service dog to guide him around since he, himself is blind.  In the five years he’s had the dog, he’s never been denied service or access to a building.  But when he called up an Uber car to give him a ride, he had a rude awakening.

They wouldn’t let the dog in the car.  And it hasn’t happened just once.

Many times over, Michael has been turned down by Uber drivers, causing him to be late to multiple meetings and almost miss a flight.

In similar situations, those in wheelchairs have seen their Uber and Lyft drivers take off as soon as they see the fact that they’re in a wheelchair.

Pressing Charges

Due to the severe lack of support for those with disabilities, both Uber and Lyft are being sued across the country for violations of the Americans with Disability Act which grants certain rights and service to those who live with a disablitiy.

However, it seems many of these issues could be on the drivers themselves.

Both Lyft and Uber have it in their policies that drivers must not deny service to those with disabilities.  They even show videos to new drivers stating that the ADA must be followed.  If a driver violates this, they can be removed from the service pending an investigation.

Still, there’s a ways to go in providing accessible support for those in wheelchairs.

The Future of Accessible Ridesourcing

Recently, Uber has started an additional service called UberAssist that provides service to elders and some people’s disabilities for the same price as a standard ride.  The drivers of UberAssist have received special training to accommodate their passenger’s needs.

They’ve also launched services called UberAccess and UberWave where they partner with local taxi companies and transportation systems to provide accessible transportation to customers in wheelchairs.  These, however, are only available in select markets currently, possibly due, in part, to the fact that many taxi and transportation companies are strongly against services like Uber.

Lyft is rolling out similar programs to provide customers with access to handicap vans.  Hopefully in the near future, easy and affordable Ridesourcing will be available for all everyone who needs it, regardless of their physical condition.

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