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A judge ruled that Uber does not have to deliver wheelchair accessible

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Uber is not violating federal law by not offering wheelchair-accessible vehicles in all of its markets, a US judge said this week.

U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg of federal court in San Francisco ruled Monday against two New Orleans and one from Jackson, Mississippi, who use electric wheelchairs, arguing that the taxi company’s inability to accommodate accessible vehicles in their cities offer a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Commenting on the court’s ruling, an Uber spokesperson said in a statement, “We welcome the outcome and are proud of our efforts to improve accessibility for all users, including through Uber WAV.”

The ruling marks a win for the ride-hailing giant, who has been criticized by disability advocates for allegedly failing to provide equal service to riders in need of accommodation. It comes days after the company agreed to pay more than $2 million and waive some wait times to settle a case with the Department of Justice alleging the company violated the ADA through customers with a disability waiting time fee if they took longer than two minutes to reach their vehicle.

“This agreement sends a strong message that Uber and other ridesharing companies will be held accountable if their services discriminate against people with disabilities,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said in a statement. after that settlement.

The company currently offers wheelchair accessible cars through its UberWAV program in a handful of cities, including Chicago, New York City, and Philadelphia.

But in Monday’s ruling, Seeborg said it would be “unreasonable” to require Uber to implement wheelchair-accessible vehicles in every city because of the high cost. For example, maintaining such a commercial fleet in New Orleans would cost Uber $800,000 per year (about $400 per ride), the company claims.

Seeborg added that even if Uber were to invest in accessible vehicles, users in need would likely face significant wait times and unreliable UberWAV service hours. (Estimates suggested that UberWAV would be available 16 hours a day on weekdays and 10 hours a day on weekends, meaning there would be large time intervals where no UberWAV service was available.)

“The expected costs here are too high for the limited service that would result, making the proposed change unreasonable,” Seeborg wrote.

Scott Crawford, one of the lead prosecutors in the case, says the court’s decision ultimately puts the burden on people with disabilities and their lawyers.

“This is something the Mississippi legislature should fix in the next session,” he said in an email to… londonbusinessblog.com. “I believe that if Uber isn’t willing to ‘raise a finger’ to provide wheelchair-accessible service in the capital (Mississippi’s largest metro area), they don’t deserve to do business here.”

Crawford added that “no one really thinks” the legislature would pass the bill, but he is still trying to push the matter.

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