Uber Technologies Inc has come under fire (rightly) for allegedly overcharging disabled passengers, being sued by the US Justice Department on Wednesday. The Department has also asked a federal court to order compliance with anti-discrimination law.
The lawsuit, filed in the US District Court in San Francisco, targets an April 2016 Uber policy of charging passengers fees for waiting drivers, a practice the service began in a limited number of cities before eventually expanding across the country.
Direct Access agrees with the assertion that this policy is in direct violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Wheelchair users, blind people, and temporarily immobile people are likely to need more time to approach and enter the vehicle, particularly in large, densely populated cities post-Covid where manoeuvring around people in the street could be a huge challenge.
In a statement by Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division; “People with disabilities deserve equal access to all areas of community life, including the private transportation services provided by companies like Uber“.
The department is asking the court to order Uber to modify its wait time fee policy and pay monetary damages for any illegal fees charged.
In a statement, Uber called the lawsuit “surprising and disappointing,” citing active discussions with the department on how to address its concerns about the policy.
“Wait time fees are charged to all riders to compensate drivers after two minutes of waiting but were never intended for riders who are ready at their designated pickup location but need more time to get into the car,” the company said.
Uber claimed its policy has been to refund wait time fees for disabled riders “whenever they alerted us that they were charged. Last week, it said it updated the policy so that “any rider who certifies they are disabled will have fees automatically waived.”
To us, this is a knee jerk, too little to late response that Uber should have addressed a long time ago. In the interest of financial gain, they ignored basic fundamentals of accessibility. As a result of this scandal, Direct Access hopes that other companies review their own policy in regard to how they provide services to disabled users who could potentially be discriminated against.