Advocates sue Texas ride-share companies

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Aundrea Moore is a blind woman in Austin, recently retired from a career at the Texas Attorney General’s Office.

Now that Uber and Lyft have left Austin in response to new regulations, she is limited in her options for taxi services. But when she tried to log into Fare and Get Me on their mobile apps, she learned that neither company supports text-to-speech technology, even though the technology is widely used and built into the iPhone, and other phones.

On September 21, the National Federation of the Blind of Texas sought legal action against the two companies, filing a federal lawsuit on behalf of Moore and three other individuals who are blind or visually impaired.

“If blind people are to compete equally in today’s job market and live the lives we want, it is critical that we be empowered to utilize all the transportation tools at our disposal,” said Norma Crosby, president of the NFB of Texas, in a news release. “Ridesharing apps are a powerful tool of equality when nonvisual access is considered during development. A lack of such access can be detrimental to opportunities for blind users . . .”

The complaints, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, assert violations under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Texas Human Resources Code.

“Fare is violating basic equal access requirements under both the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and state law by failing to implement policies and procedures that would prevent or reduce discrimination against blind riders…,” the lawsuits states. “Due to distances between destinations and the limitations of public transportation and paratransit, many blind persons must use taxi services to travel from one place to another.

“The fact that Fare does not have an accessible software application for blind users, and the fact that this discrimination deters blind individuals including the Plaintiffs from using Fare, means that such persons are denied full and equal access to this critical mode of transportation.”

Disability Rights Texas and TRE Legal are representing the NFB of Texas in the proceeding.

The complaint against Fare can be read here [PDF] and the lawsuit against Get Me can be read here [PDF].

Disability Rights Texas and Disability Rights Washington, the parent organization of Rooted in Rights, are the designated protection and advocacy agencies in Texas and Washington, respectively, and are members of the National Disability Rights Network.