Uber and Lyft are two of the most popular ridesharing businesses that have swept the nation in its transportation revolution. Our mobile devices have completely changed how we travel, and ridesharing is just one of the many things that have been affected by the iPhone boom. By downloading the app, you can ask for a driver almost anywhere you are without calling or hailing a cab. The price is pre-set; there’s rider and driver transparency; and the cost is taken right out of your account. It’s been so successful that many other forms of transportation seem obsolete.
However, it’s an innovation that doesn’t quite work for everyone. Namely, those who use a wheelchair.
If you are an individual with a disability who relies on their wheelchair, it’s important to know how access to ridesharing works for you. Though the platforms aren’t as accessible as it is for others, there are some options in terms of ridesharing. It is important to understand what your rights are when it comes to wheelchair-accessible ridesharing, as well as the other reliable options available.
WAV Options Aren’t Available Everywhere
Wheelchair accessible vehicle (WAV) options aren’t as common as many other types of vehicles. For that reason, there aren’t as many Uber or Lyft drivers who can accomodate someone in a wheelchair. However, Uber has created uberWAV in order to accommodate riders who require a wheelchair-accessible vehicle. Lyft offers Access Mode which connects riders to drivers with a WAV option.
Unfortunately, there are some problems with these services. For one, uberWAV and Access Mode are not available in all markets. Commonly, bigger cities with more access to drivers and different vehicle types offer WAV options. Otherwise, many locations don’t carry the option at all. Also, the wait times are a lot longer. So, while ridesharing can be an option, it’s not the most reliable.
Other Types of Assistance
If you have a foldable wheelchair, uberASSIST can be an additional option for you. This specification is meant to help those with a disability in and out of the car, but it can’t accommodate motorized or non-folding wheelchairs. Drivers who offer uberASSIST have been trained and educated on how to transfer riders safely from their wheelchair to the car. Again, this option is not available in all markets and can include long wait times.
Because of the lack of accessible ridesharing for people who rely on their wheelchair, both Lyft and Uber have received a lot of backlash from disability advocates — even being sued in a number of locations for not following ADA requirements for accessible transit. Though both rideshare companies are working toward a solution to the problem, the current state of accessibility is minimal.
Knowing Your Rights
Regardless of your disability status, it’s important to know your rights as a rideshare customer. Uber and Lyft are built on a mutual understanding between rider and driver. When those understandings aren’t met or are abused, you have rights as a rider both legally and through the platform you’re using.
- If you don't get picked up: Not getting picked up by a rideshare driver due to a need for a WAV vehicle is all too common for people with a disability requiring a wheelchair. Because of low access, this happens frequently. Your rights as a rider involve filing a complaint, though some have started lawsuits as a result of violating ADA law.
- If you get in an accident: Regardless of your disability status, if you are in an accident as a rideshare passenger you have rights for compensation if you’re injured. You’ll want to contact authorities in reference to your accident as well as the rideshare company.
- If your driver is breaking the rules: There are many rules that are enforced to keep everyone safe in a rideshare situation. Safety, personal space, language, and law compliance are all aspects of regulations on rideshare drivers. If your driver breaks any of them, be sure to contact the rideshare company.
- If you experience discrimination: If you experience any discrimination as someone who is disabled or otherwise, you have the right to complain to the rideshare company about the driver. You also have legal rights with the company that go further than any ADA requirement in terms of disability discrimination in cases of drivers and how they treat their disabled riders.
Accessible Transit That Is More Reliable
In truth, the nuts and bolts of rideshare options for people with disabilities that require a wheelchair have not been ironed out. Hopefully in time there will be more access to WAV options for disabled riders. In the meantime, you may consider accessible transit that is more reliable. Taxis, buses, subways, and trains are all required by the ADA to provide wheelchair-accessible transportation. If you’re navigating transit directions on your own, Google navigation also offers a “wheelchair accessible” option when getting directions, which can help with finding the transit option that works best for you.
Rideshare companies sometimes argue that they don’t need to meet ADA requirements because they are tech company — not a transportation company. At any rate, understand that other types of transit are required to have wheelchair-accessible options.
For veterans, transitioning from military life to civilian life can be difficult. For that reason, there are plenty of veteran programs to ease the transition. If you’re a disabled vet who now needs a wheelchair, that transition can be more difficult. The VA offers some disability transportation resources for disabled veterans transitioning back into civilian life,, including transport to VA facilities. You might also look into the National Organization for Vehicle Accessibility (NOVA) and the grants this organization provides in making vehicle modifications.
Wheelchair-accessible ridesharing options aren’t nearly as accessible as they need to be. Though these ridesharing companies are finding it difficult to follow ADA requirements with the structure of their platforms, it’s imperative to be inclusive and create more transit options for people who require a wheelchair. For now, it’s important to understand that ridesharing options aren’t ideal, though there are some options. In the meantime, it’s important to know your rights and understand which transit options are more reliable. Hopefully soon, ridesharing will be more accessible for riders who require a wheelchair.
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