On the surface it would seem that rideshare services like Lyft would make accessible transportation more available to people with disabilities. But that’s definitely not the case in the San Francisco area, and DRA Legal is trying to do something about it. More specifically they filed a class action lawsuit against Lyft last month, in an effort to compel the company to provide wheelchair-accessible services in the San Francisco area.
The complaint alleges that Lyft violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and discriminates against people with mobility disabilities by failing to provide wheelchair-accessible vehicles. Plaintiffs include two disability rights organizations — Community Resources for Independent Living and Independent Living Resource Center San Francisco — as well as four local power wheelchair-users.
Interestingly enough the case is not about money. Instead the plaintiffs are asking the court to require Lyft to comply with the ADA – and that goes beyond providing wheelchair-accessible vehicles. Ideally, they would like the company to provide incentives to drivers who use accessible vehicles, thus making them more readily available to potential customers.
The complaint also notes real life examples of Lyft’s failure to provide accessible services. Take the story of Marc Brew, artistic director of Axis Dance Company, for example. After attending a performance at Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall, Mr. Brew tried to order a vehicle from Lyft. As usual no accessible vehicles were available. And since it was after midnight, BART was closed, and all of Mr. Brew’s friends were either asleep or out of town. Oh yes, and his wheelchair was running low on power and was desperately in need of a charge. Ultimately he was able to roll over to a friend’s house where he spent the night.
Unfortunately Marc’s situation is not unique. Although potential customers can certainly request a wheelchair-accessible vehicle through the Lyft app, users ultimately receive a reply that no wheelchair-accessible vehicles are available. The message also includes a list of public transportation options.
So maybe injunctive relief is the way to go. After all, Lyft has already made wheelchair-accessible vehicles available in Philadelphia, in response to a law passed by the state legislature. They are also making strides in access in Texas, after similar legislation was passed.
Stay tuned – this could get interesting.