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Accessibility and the sharing economy: Leap, Uber, Lyft and ADA requirements

Kendra Levine, librarian, Institute of Transportation Studies Library | April 22, 2015

The disruption of traditional transportation by startups like Uber and Lyft has created waves and caused many cities and agencies to re-examine how they regulate taxis and the livery system. Now it looks like upstarts like Leap and Chariot, aiming to disrupt public transit, may be on the same course.

It was reported that last month a complaint was filed with the Department of Justice (DOJ) because Leap has failed to make its buses accessible to wheelchairs. This echoes similar concerns that have been expressed about Uber and Lyft.

people at bus stop

(pix.plz photo via flickr/Creative Commons)

It is important to note that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not require automobiles to be accessible, while other types of vehicles (vans and buses) must be accessible.

Transit is crucial in providing accessible mobility options for people with disabilities, which is important to the quality of life. There has been much research focused on how to improve these transportation networks, including using taxis as a potential form of paratransit.

Although transportation-network companies like Uber and Lyft have improved accessibility for some groups, it has been inconsistent. This review of Uber by the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) points out the service works well with iOS, but that they Android app is not accessible.

There is also the issue that riders with guide dogs might be refused a ride and “there appears to be no legal recourse that can be taken under the ADA at this time.” The AFB has since filed a lawsuit against Uber and the DOJ now says Uber must comply with ADA. These sorts of regulatory growing pains seem to be a part of disruptive transportation companies maturity, which is why the complaint filed against Leap isn’t very surprising.

The Leap case also raises the existential question — what does it mean to be a transit service? Part of Leap’s argument is that they do not provide transit; rather, they connect riders with an operator. This is the same position Uber and Lyft have taken with regard to its relationship with riders and drivers, which also has a lawsuit in the courts. Leap and Chariot are basically modern jitneys that compliment existing services, and jitneys are not exempt from ADA requirements.

Crossposted from Kendra K. Levine’s Blog on the website of the Institute of Transportation Studies.

Comments to “Accessibility and the sharing economy: Leap, Uber, Lyft and ADA requirements

  1. The city of Portland required uber to have wheelchair accessible vehicles (WAV). Uber gives hourly guarantees so that expensive WAV vehicles can be part of their fleet. It seems to be working well. The city provides training to the drivers. If Portland can do it, then Berkeley can too. Portland also requires 20% of all cabs be WAV as well.

  2. It’s very clear that there are a lot of legal growing pains for rideshare companies. Each city they expand to creates a new battlefield for policy makers; airport pickups seem to be a focal point. I drive for Uber and I have given a ride to a blind passenger with a seeing eye dog. I fully support the ABA’s challenge of Uber, as no passenger should be ignored by Uber. But from the perspective of a driver, it is quite burdensome to have a seeing eye dog in the car. My entire backseat was filled with fur by the end of the ride, and this takes quite some time to clean out.

  3. All those companies mean well, but they are for profit with lack or regulations.
    Regional governments have to keep local transit systems up and running.

  4. Legal recourse does exist against Uber and Lyft: file a civil rights lawsuit. This is exactly what blind people have done against Uber after the company ignored concerns that drivers failed to pick up riders with guide dogs or would not identify themselves verbally when they arrived.

    The services are so new that no trial court has decided the issue, let alone an appeals court. Once an appellate ruling happens, there will be legal clarity. So far, Uber wants to spend loads of money and resources fighting accessibility rather than providing it, which would cost little.

  5. Putting the whole blame on uber and lyft will not solve the problem, if we look deep into the problem the over all situation is getting worse, because now people are more dependent on re-usability of the same thing, if some one have car then why not share it, the car owner agrees that why not lets share the fuel !

    It’s not only in cars but in everyday life now, talk about facebook, why not have a social platform people thought, why not make people content our own facebook thought!

    talk about food, like rakoziny – why not share what I can’t eat in the menu and exchange with the thing the other cant eat rather disposing it!

    talk about Web services, why not share Idea we will invest on it, and share 50 50!

    That’s the concept of re-usability because now the time the population is lacking resources and that’s a bitter truth !

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