- Uber is facing a class action lawsuit brought by individuals in the Pittsburgh area for not providing wheelchair-accessible vehicles (WAVs) in that city.
- Plaintiffs say Uber is violating the Americans with Disabilities Act and denying wheelchair users equal access to ride-hailing services.
- The lawsuit, brought by Disability Rights Advocates (DRA) and Carlson Lynch LLP, does not seek monetary damages. It instead asks that Uber modify its policies and practices to make WAVs more available on its platform. An Uber spokesman told Smart Cities Dive the company has no comment on pending litigation.
DRA has filed similar lawsuits against Uber in California and New York, and one against Lyft in California. Uber also faced a lawsuit in 2017 over wheelchair accessibility from the Equal Rights Center in Washington, DC.
The plaintiffs in the Pittsburgh lawsuit — four individuals who use wheelchairs — say they have been denied the benefits that ride-hailing would offer, like the ability to travel spontaneously or have alternatives to public transit. In a statement, Irma Allen, one of the plaintiffs, said her family is at a “distinct disadvantage” by not having the option to use Uber.
And even in the cities where WAVs are an option, it is not always available. A report released last year by New York Lawyers for the Public Interest found that in 49 attempts to hail a WAV on Uber, only 26 were successful. On Lyft, the success rate was just three in 65.
Part of the problem for Uber and Lyft is supply. Because they operate as platforms, not vehicle fleets, it can be challenging to guarantee WAVs will be available without seeking out partnerships that will put more vans on its platform.
Uber has worked to expand its accessibility options. In November, the company announced that it would partner with third-party transportation provider, MV Transportation, for more accessible vehicles, with the goal to drop the average wait time to 15 minutes or less. That service is now available in 11 U.S. cities, though Pittsburgh is not among them.
Cities have also stepped up accessibility requirements. New York City, for example, mandated that 25% of rides by 2023 be in WAVs, or that wait times be 10 minutes or less in 80% of rides.
Still, Carlson Lynch LLP Founding Partner Bruce Carlson said Uber needs to do more, especially as it competes with public transportation.
"Uber wants to create a paradigm shift," said Carlson in a statement. "But will the new paradigm realize the potential of exponentially increasing accessibility, or will it leave individuals with mobility disabilities behind?”