Uber’s new services aim to improve accessibility

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Uber announced September 2 new changes to its ride sharing services, making them more accessible to people with vision and mobility disabilities.

Ride-sharing companies, such as Uber, Lyft and Yellow Cab, allow people to request taxis through their mobile devices. While the growth of such services have expanded transportation options for urban dwellers in recent years, they have become heavily criticized by traditional taxi companies and people with disabilities, who argue that their services are inaccessible to them.

As a first step, the San Francisco-based company will launch UberASSIST. With this service, people with visual disabilities or who use a wheelchair would get paired up with drivers who have been trained in regard to the “necessary knowledge and safety requirements for those with accessibility needs,” according to blog post on Uber’s website.

In a few weeks, Uber will launch UberAccess, which purportedly will allow customers to request wheelchair accessible vehicles, such as those equipped with a lift or a ramp.

In July 2014, ADAPT of Texas and the Texas Civil Rights Project filed federal lawsuits against three ride-sharing companies, Uber, Lyft and Yellow Cab, alleging that their services violated the Americas with Disabilities Act.

“Uber and Lyft are up and coming in terms of transportation companies, and they don’t really have any means to provide wheelchair accessibility,” plaintiff David Wittie, a plaintiff in the lawsuit and member of ADAPT of Texas, told the Houston Chronicle. “They are socially irresponsible and not accessible and equivalent for people with disabilities.”