Fri, 02 Jun 2023

SAN FRANCISCO, California: A U.S. federal judge has ruled that ride-sharing company Uber has not violated a federal law protecting people with disabilities, even though it does not offer wheelchair-accessible vehicles in every market it serves.

San Francisco federal court Chief Judge Richard Seeborg ruled against two plaintiffs from New Orleans and one from Jackson, Mississippi, who use electric wheelchairs and argued that Uber's failure to provide rides in their home cities violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Seeborg said it was "unreasonable" to require the San Francisco-based company to accommodate the plaintiffs because of the cost, but he rejected Uber's claim that it was excused because it had done "more than its fair share" in other cities.

Uber estimated the "bare minimum" annual costs to team up with commercial providers of wheelchair-accessible vehicles was $800,000 in New Orleans, or about $400 per ride, and $550,000 in Jackson, Mississippi, or about $1,000 per ride.

Even if the money was spent, wheelchair users would likely face "significant" wait times, as well as gaps of eight to 14 hours a day when no rides would be available, Seeborg said, while ruling against plaintiffs Scott Crawford from Jackson, and Stephan Namisnak and Francis Falls from New Orleans.

usIn a statement, Uber said, "We welcome the outcome and are proud of our efforts to improve accessibility for all users."

From 2018 to 2020, Uber said it spent more than $150 million to provide wheelchair-accessible vehicles in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Phoenix, Philadelphia, Austin, San Francisco, Washington, Boston and Portland, Oregon, according to court papers.

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