From Hawke@1:2320/100 to All on Mon Oct 17 23:47:00 2016
Uber Sued Over Lack Of Accessible Rides
by Mary Wisniewski, Chicago Tribune/TNS | October 14, 2016
CHICAGO - A Chicago-area disability rights group sued the ride-hailing service Uber on Thursday, asserting that the company did not provide enough vehicles that can handle wheelchairs.
The lawsuit, filed in Chicago federal court on behalf of Access Living of Metropolitan Chicago and three named individuals, wants an order to force Uber to provide more wheelchair-accessible vehicles under the Americans With Disabilities Act.
The lawsuit claimed that though Uber provided nearly 2 million rides in Chicago in June 2015 alone; from September 2011, when it started operating in Chicago, until August 2015, the company provided only 14 rides to motorized wheelchair users who require wheelchair-accessible vehicles.
"I have a lot of non-disabled friends," said plaintiff Justin Cooper, 34, of Lincoln Park, who uses a motorized wheelchair. "I can't travel to places with them because I don't have accessible service from Uber."
A spokeswoman for San Francisco-based Uber Technologies Inc. didn't have an immediate comment.
Steven Blonder, a lawyer for the firm of Much Shelist, which filed the lawsuit, said one of the benefits of Uber as opposed to cabs is the ease of use and cost to the average consumer.
"The benefits the everyday consumer gets from Uber aren't available for everyone," Blonder said. "So whole classes of people get shut out."
Cooper said that he sometimes used wheelchair-accessible cabs, but that they could be expensive.
"We're looking to Uber to stand up to make the commitment to wheelchair users it provides to everyone else," Blonder said. Asked why the lawsuit did not include the Lyft or Via ride-hailing services, Blonder said Uber was the largest provider in Chicago, though his firm is looking at the other services.
Access Living had supported a proposed city ordinance intended to impose stricter rules on ride-share services, said the group's attorney, Charles Petrof. The original version of the ordinance would have required that 5 percent of Uber's fleet be wheelchair-accessible, and that the service be equivalent to other Uber service in terms of time and cost, Petrof said.
But the watered-down version of the ordinance that passed the City Council in June did not include mention of equivalent services for those with disabilities, Petrof said.
Petrof said he was aware of one other lawsuit against Uber and Lyft involving wheelchair accessible vehicles, filed in Texas last year, but it was settled and no widely applicable policy resulted from it.