(Adds comment from Uber)
By Timothy Mclaughlin
CHICAGO Oct 13 A Chicago-based disability
rights group on Thursday filed a federal lawsuit against Uber
Technologies Inc alleging the ride-hailing company has
violated wheelchair accessibility laws.
The lawsuit, filed by Access Living of Metropolitan Chicago
and three disabled people associated with the group, alleges San
Francisco-based Uber fails to provide vehicles equipped to
handle wheelchairs. It seeks an order to bring the company into
compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Out of millions of rides, the company has provided just a
handful to disabled users requiring wheelchair accessible
vehicles since launching in the city in 2011, the lawsuit
Uber's "service to people who require wheelchair accessible
vehicles ranges from token to non-existent," court documents
"That position threatens a return to the isolation and
segregation that the disability rights movement has fought to
overcome," the documents added.
According to the lawsuit, from September 2011, when Uber
began operating in Chicago, to August 2015, the company provided
just 14 rides to motorized wheelchair users requiring wheelchair
accessible vehicles. It did this by connecting riders with
wheelchair accessible taxi services, a blog from the company
By comparison, court documents said, Uber provided nearly
5.5 million rides from April to June 2015 in Chicago, the third
largest U.S. city.
"We take this issue seriously and are committed to
increasing mobility and freedom for all riders and drivers,
including those members of our communities who are disabled,"
Uber said in a statement in response to the lawsuit.
In May, Uber launched uberWAV in Chicago, which provides
riders with vehicles equipped with wheelchair ramps or lifts and
uberASSIST, designed for people who need additional assistance
while using the ride-hailing service.
At the time, the company acknowledged that it needed to
increase disability access in the city and said that it "won't
During an August meeting with Uber officials that included a
demonstration of the app, court documents said, the program
showed there were no wheelchair accessible vehicles operating in
Chicago at the time. Charles Petrof, Access Disability's lawyer,
said on Thursday this continues to be an issue.
Taxi operators in Chicago with more than 20 cabs must
maintain at least 5 percent as accessible vehicles, according to
city ordinance. The city also provides financial incentives for
wheelchair accessible taxis.
Last July, Massachusetts attorney general's office began
examining how Uber, and its rival, Lyft, ensure equal access for
people with disabilities.
(Additional reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles;
Editing by Sandra Maler and Michael Perry)