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Lawsuit claims Uber discriminates against people with disabilities

The complaint alleges that people with disabilities wait eight times as long and pay twice the fare.
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AOL/Steve Dent

Uber launched a couple of new programs back in 2014 to serve people who use wheelchairs. UberAssist is a way to hail an UberX driver trained in accessibility and whose car can accommodate a folding wheelchair. UberWAV will send you an actual accessible vehicle with a rear-entry ramp and safety features for riders with accessibility needs. These programs are only available in a handful of larger markets like New York Washington DC or Portland, unfortunately. In addition, Uber may not have provided these services in equal ways to riders who need them even in cities where these programs exist. The Washington, DC-based Equal Rights Center (ERC) is suing Uber for denying that equal access to people with disabilities, claiming that the company is in violation of Title 3 of the Americans with Disabilities Act as well as the DC Human Rights Act.

The organization conducted an investigation that compared the experience of customers with and without disabilities. The ERC claims that Uber makes people in wheelchairs wait an average of eight times longer for an accessible solution to arrive and had to pay twice as much in fares. Further, it alleges that none of the more than 30,000 Uber cars in DC is capable of serving individuals who can't use a folding wheelchair.

"Uber had the power to design and implement services in the District that connect wheelchair users to employment and educational opportunities, support services and cultural events," said Michal Allen, a partner at the firm representing the ERC. "It just chose not to do so. By flouting federal and local accessibility laws, Uber deprives wheelchair users of the life-changing benefits of the convenient, affordable, on-demand services that Uber delivers to its customers who don't use wheelchairs."

This isn't the first lawsuit Uber's faced over accessibility, either. A couple of wheelchair users from Mississippi filed a suit last May, which alleged that Uber had no accessible options in the city of Jackson. A Chicago disability group also sued Uber for violating wheelchair accessibility laws last October.

Update: An Uber spokesperson sent Engadget the following statement in an email: "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."

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