By Maureen Gazda , October 18, 2016
Prominent Chicago-based disability rights group, Access Living, filed a federal lawsuit on Thursday against Uber claiming the popular mobile ride-hailing company violated wheelchair accessibility laws.
The lawsuit, filed by the Metropolitan Chicago disability activist group along with three individual plaintiffs who use wheelchairs and cannot access Uber vehicles, alleges that Uber fails to provide ample wheelchair accessible transportation, including vans with ramps and lifts, among its fleet and is not in compliance with The Americans with Disabilities Act.
While Uber claims to operate a sufficient amount of wheelchair accessible vehicles and promotes an, “ongoing commitment to military veterans,” court documents state, “its service to people who require wheelchair accessible vehicles ranges from token to non-existent and that position threatens a return to the isolation and segregation that the disability rights movement has fought to overcome.”
Uber began its service in Chicago in 2011 and the case states that between September 2011 and August 2015, the ride service only offered 14 trips to those requiring wheelchair access, most of which were Uber connecting riders to a local taxi company with wheelchair accessible vans.
“We filed the suit now because our advocacy efforts to get accessible transportation had failed,” says Access Living employee and attorney Charles Petrof. “We had worked on a local ordinance that Uber and Lyft campaigned hard against and defeated. Litigation was our only remaining viable option.”
Despite launching UberWAV earlier this year, which allows riders to choose the option of ordering a wheelchair accessible van with a lift or a ramp, Uber has faced similar complaints in other U.S. states including New York, California, Texas and Arizona.
“Our ultimate goals are to settle the question of whether the rideshare industry is covered by the ADA and, if it is, to obtain equivalent service for motorized wheelchair users,” says Petrof. “In practical terms, we are asking Uber to have enough wheelchair accessible vehicles on the road to have similar response times to and the same fare as the UberX service.”
Responding to the suit, a statement from Uber reads, “We take this issue seriously and are committed to increasing mobility and freedom for all riders and drivers, including those members of our communities who are disabled.”