Uber Erects More Accessibility Roadblocks

Although Uber has long claimed that it’s not bound by the regulations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, it just makes common sense to make this service as accessible as possible. In fact, I had high hopes when Uber introduced their new WAV app that allows customers to order an accessible vehicle with a few taps and a swipe or two. And in theory that works; however since Uber doesn’t have enough accessible vehicles to meet the demand, it falls short of a viable solution.

Now on the surface it would seem that a good solution would be to actively – and aggressively — recruit drivers with accessible vehicles; however Uber continues to deny the need for them. To be honest, that logic totally evades me. If a wheelchair-user can’t get a ride when he or she requests one, there is a need for more wheelchair-accessible vehicles.

Surely there are people with accessible vehicles out there who could use a little extra cash; and it’s not like they can’t pick up able bodied passengers when there isn’t a ride request for a wheelchair accessible vehicle. And the more wheelchair-accessible vehicles that are out there, the better the better chances are for finding an accessible ride. Again, it’s just common sense.

But that’s apparently not the mindset of Uber. Unfortunately they don’t appear to be actively recruiting folks with wheelchair-accessible vehicles. Even worse, they seem to make it more difficult for these folks to actually become Uber partners (what they call their drivers).

In order to become an Uber partner, you have to be 21, have a valid drivers license and at least one year of driving experience. You must also have a four-door vehicle and you must provide the vehicle registration and proof of insurance. It doesn’t sound like an overly complicated process, or one that should take an inordinate amount of time.

For example, it took in Kim in Berkeley 2 weeks to get approved as a regular Uber partner, and Shaun in Detroit had his approval is just 3 days.. Contrast that to the time it took some folks to get WAV partner approval —  3 months for Eric in Los Altos and a whopping 11 months for Jennifer in Novato.

So why did it take so long? Well in Jennifer’s case, she was quickly granted partner status, but she then experienced an extended “e-mail run around”, that questioned whether her van conversion was performed by a NMEDA member (an Uber requirement for accessible vehicles). Eric, on the other hand, submitted all the required materials and then was just told to wait.  He never heard back, and he eventually gave up on follow-up inquiries and just reapplied. His application was eventually approved, but not without several more e-mails and a vehicle inspection.

It may be that Uber is just unfamiliar with the WAV application process, or it could be just poor internal communication. Either way it shouldn’t take that long to approve a WAV partner – especially when these vehicles are needed on the streets.

So what’s the solution? Well I say, if you can’t beat ’em, join ‘em. That’s where you come in. If you have a wheelchair-accessible vehicle and can use a little extra cash (and it won’t hurt your benefits), apply to be a Uber WAV partner. And after you do, continue to follow up until you are approved. It will definitely take some persistence, but it’s really the only way to get more Uber wheelchair-accessible vehicles on the road. Oh, and tell a friend!

To become an Uber partner click here