Equal Rights Center Files Lawsuit Against Uber For Providing Services That Are Inaccessible To Wheelchair Riders

Investigation reveals higher fares and longer wait times for wheelchair users

WASHINGTON, DC - Today, the Equal Rights Center (ERC)—a national non-profit civil rights organization headquartered in Washington, D.C.—filed a lawsuit against Uber Technologies, Inc., alleging that Uber has designed and operated its transportation service in the District of Columbia in a way that effectively excludes wheelchair users from its basic “UberX” product,  and instead, directs them to the limited number of accessible DC taxi cabs through their “TAXI WAV” (wheelchair accessible vehicle) option. The lawsuit also alleges that none of the 30,000 or more vehicles operated by Uber drivers in the District is capable of transporting individuals who use wheelchairs that cannot be folded and stowed in a trunk. As a result, wheelchair users are deprived of the opportunity to ride in Uber-affiliated vehicles, and subjected to substantially longer wait times and higher fares as compared to other Uber customers.

Uber’s failure to ensure a comparable level of service for wheelchair users in the District of Columbia violates Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires companies like Uber to provide “full and equal enjoyment” of Uber’s services. ERC also alleges that Uber has violated the D.C. Human Rights Act, which provides that people with disabilities shall have “an equal opportunity to participate fully in the economic, cultural and intellectual life of the District,” including transportation and tech company services. ERC is represented by the civil rights firm, Relman, Dane & Colfax, PLLC and Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs.

ERC conducted a civil rights testing investigation that compared the experience of customers using “UberX”, Uber’s most popular application option, to customers using Uber’s “TAXI WAV” option. Test results revealed that wheelchair users waited an average of eight times longer for an accessible vehicle to arrive and paid as much as twice as much in fares. The investigation also established that, on occasion, no accessible vehicles were available at all.

ERC Executive Director Melvina Ford comments: “Uber is not exempt from anti-discrimination laws. It has a legal obligation to ensure that individuals with disabilities can access its transportation services without excessive costs and wait times. This is a problem we know Uber can fix.

Michael Allen, a partner at Relman, Dane & Colfax, said:  “Uber had the power to design and implement services in the District that connect wheelchair users to employment and educational opportunities, support services and cultural events. It just chose not to do so. By flouting federal and local accessibility laws, Uber deprives wheelchair users of the life-changing benefits of the convenient, affordable, on-demand services that Uber delivers to its customers who don’t use wheelchairs.” 

Matthew Handley, Director of Litigation at the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, added: “Federal and local disability laws require companies such as Uber to provide full and equal enjoyment of their services to the disability community.  Uber’s practices not only deny such enjoyment, but convey to the disability community that its patronage is not wanted.”


Media Highlights:

"D.C. Rights Group Sues Uber Over Lack of Wheelchair AccessWAMU (June 28, 2017)


Contacts:

Alexis L. Squire
Sr. Manger of External Affairs
Equal Rights Center
asquire@equalrightscenter.org
(202) 370-3209

Gregg A. Kelley
Director of Development & Communications
Washington Lawyers’ Committee
gregg_kelley@washlaw.org
(202) 319-1000 x155


ABOUT THE EQUAL RIGHTS CENTER: The ERC is a civil rights organization that identifies and seeks to eliminate unlawful and unfair discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations in its home community of Greater Washington DC and nationwide. The ERC’s core strategy for identifying unlawful and unfair discrimination is civil rights testing. When the ERC identifies discrimination, it seeks to eliminate it through the use of testing data to educate the public and business community, support policy advocacy, conduct compliance testing and training, and, if necessary, take enforcement action. For more information, please visit: 
www.equalrightscenter.org.

ABOUT RELMAN DANE & COLFAX: Relman, Dane & Colfax is one of the largest plaintiff-side fair housing law firms in the country. Based in Washington, D.C., the Relman firm is responsible for significant legal decisions in civil rights cases, including those in Independent Living Center of Southern California v. City of Los Angeles (accessibility of municipal affordable housing program); National Fair Housing Alliance v. Spanos (ensuring accessibility in housing design and construction); United States ex rel. Anti-Discrimination Center v. Westchester County (housing desegregation); Kennedy v. City of Zanesville (access to public services); and Baltimore v. Wells Fargo and Memphis v. Wells Fargo (discriminatory lending).  More information about the firm’s cases is available at www.relmanlaw.com.

ABOUT THE WASHINGTON LAWYERS’ COMMITTEE: The Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs was established in 1968 to provide pro bono legal services to address issues of discrimination and entrenched poverty. Since then, it has successfully handled thousands of civil rights cases on behalf of individuals and groups in the areas of fair housing, equal employment opportunity, public accommodations, immigrant rights, disability rights, public education, and prisoners’ rights. For more information, please visit www.washlaw.org.

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