The regulations the Dallas City Council might eventually maybe get around to putting on Uber, Lyft, and the like could include a provision requiring a certain portion of their fleets to be handicapped-accessible. But there are already laws in place requiring transportation providers to accommodate passengers with disabilities: the federal Americans with Disabilities Act and, on the state level, chapter 121 of the Texas Human Resources Code.
"Really, [Uber and Lyft] are similar to any other entity: You have to provide equivalent services to people with disabilities that you provide to people who don't, and you have to reasonably accommodate people with disabilities," says Wayne Krause Yang, legal director of the Texas Civil Rights Project.
Yang says Uber and Lyft are failing and failing badly. Last week, TCRP sued the two transportation-for-hire services alleging that they are violating state and federal disabilities law. At the press conference announcing the suit, one of the wheelchair-bound plaintiffs tried to arrange a ride with Lyft, Yang says, but no accessible car ever showed.
Lyft and Uber aren't alone. TCRP filed almost three dozen lawsuits across the state to mark the anniversary of the enactment of the ADA. In North Texas, where TCRP just opened an office, the group is suing two hospitals -- Methodist Hospital in Dallas and North Hills Hospital in North Richland Hills -- for subjecting deaf clients to "all manner of invasive medical poking and prodding" without providing a sign language interpreter and a University Park condo association for failing to provide curbcuts on sidewalks.
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But when it comes to transportation, Uber and Lyft are particularly egregious. Yang said his group has been working with -- and suing -- cab companies for years, which has helped encourage them to improve their services to people with disabilities. That hasn't yet happened with Uber or Lyft.
The two companies issued statements last week disputing TCRP's assertions. Lyft told the ABC affiliate in Houston that "many disabled individuals, who were previously underserved by existing transportation options, now actively use and rely on Lyft as a reliable, safe and affordable way to get around."
Uber says much the same. It expands transportation options for everyone, including those with disabilities.
Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.