Equal Rights Center sues Uber for denying equal access to people who use wheelchairs

The Equal Rights Center is suing Uber for denying equal access to its services for people with disabilities. According to the lawsuit, the ERC alleges that Uber has chosen not to include wheelchair-accessible cars as an option in its standard UberX fleet of vehicles, and excludes people who use wheelchairs in Washington, D.C. The ERC’s lawsuit alleges that Uber is in violation of Title 3 of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the D.C. Human Rights Act.

Uber first launched a service geared toward people with disabilities in 2014, with the launch of Uber Access. Through Uber Access, passengers can request UberASSIST and UberWAV, which means a wheelchair accessible car would pick them up. It’s worth noting that Uber Access is not available in all of Uber’s markets, and the availability of Uber Access seems to be dependent upon Uber’s ability to partner with commercial providers.

After conducting its own investigation of Uber’s services for people in wheelchairs, the ERC found that passengers had to wait an average of eight times longer for an accessible car to arrive. They also had to pay twice as much in fares, according to the ERC’s study.

“The limited service that Uber does provide in D.C. for wheelchair users—offering a connection to the limited number of wheelchair-accessible taxis on the road—does not provide anything resembling the same service that Uber provides to those who do not use wheelchairs,” the lawsuit states.

Ultimately, the ERC wants Uber to integrate wheelchair accessible cars into its UberX fleet so that people who use wheelchairs don’t have to wait longer and pay more to use the car service.

“Uber is not exempt from anti-discrimination laws. It has a legal obligation to ensure that individuals with disabilities can access its transportation services without excessive costs and wait times,” ERC Executive Director Melvina Ford said in a statement. “This is a problem we know Uber can fix.”

Update 1:20 pm PT from an Uber spokesperson: “We take this issue seriously and are committed to continued work with the District, our partners, and stakeholders toward expanding transportation options and freedom of movement for all residents throughout the region.”

In May, two people who use wheelchairs sued Uber because the company doesn’t enable them to request cars that are accessible to people with wheelchairs in Jackson, Mississippi.

At the time, an Uber spokesperson said the company takes this issue seriously and is “committed to increasing mobility and freedom for all riders and drivers, which of course includes members of our communities with disabilities.”