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Federal Court Complaint Alleges Uber Services in District of Columbia are Inaccessible to Wheelchair Users

Relman, Dane & Colfax and the Washington Lawyers’ Committee filed suit in federal court in the District of Columbia on June 28, 2017, on behalf of the Equal Rights Center (“ERC”), alleging that Uber Technologies, Inc. and two of its affiliates (collectively, “Uber”) have adopted and maintained policies that either exclude wheelchair users entirely from Uber services, or relegate them to inferior services with excessive wait times and much higher fares. As a result, wheelchair users are deprived of the substantial benefits that Uber provides to all of its other customers, thereby making it harder for them to travel to work, school, medical appointments and community events.

ERC alleges that Uber has the ability to make its services accessible, but has chosen not to do so. None of the more than 30,000 Uber-branded vehicles in the D.C. area is accessible to a customer who cannot transfer out of his or her wheelchair. While Uber helps its drivers acquire cars, it limits that assistance to vehicles that cannot accommodate a customer riding in a wheelchair. Instead of making its own fleet accessible, Uber designed its smartphone application to include a TAXI WAV option, which merely diverts requests for wheelchair accessible vehicles to the diminishing number of accessible taxicabs that may be operating when the request is made.

After receiving complaints from its members and others, ERC conducted an investigation of Uber’s services, and found that wait times for an accessible vehicle through Uber’s TAXI WAV option were as much as eight times longer than for the standard UberX option, and that fares were almost twice as much.

Uber’s actions violate Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires companies like Uber to provide “full and equal enjoyment” of Uber’s services. They also constitute violations of the D.C. Human Rights Act, which guarantees “an equal opportunity to participate fully in the economic, cultural and intellectual life of the District” for people with disabilities. ERC seeks an injunction requiring Uber to make its services accessible to wheelchair users, and other monetary and equitable relief.

The litigation team is led by Megan Cacace, Michael Allen, Sasha Samberg-Champion, and Robert Friedman of Relman, Dane & Colfax; and Matthew Handley of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee.

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