Should ride-sharing services adhere to the Americans with Disabilities Act?

I wrote an op-ed piece for the Chicago Tribune called “Should ride-sharing services adhere to the Americans with Disabilities Act?” in April, and it seems now that the ride-sharing vs. registered taxi driver issue is heating up all over the country.Billy, who first told me about ride sharing. Our bartender friend Billy Balducci is the first person I remember telling me about ride-sharing. Billy can get off pretty late from work at Hackney’s, our local tavern, and he says going home using UberX works great.

Ride-sharing services like UberX, Lyft and Sidecar allow regular people to offer their personal cars for hire. The rides are usually cheaper, you can order and pay for it with your Smartphone, and you don’t have to tip the driver. “The picture of the guy who’s picking you up comes up right on your phone, so you know who to expect when they pull up,” Billy marveled, leaning over the bar to show me his phone before giving it a little more thought. “Guess that might not work so great for you, Beth!”

We both laughed. I was confident I could figure out a way to tackle that problem. What I was more concerned about was what might happen if a ride-sharing driver showed up and didn’t want to let my Seeing Eye dog in the car, and that’s what my piece in the Chicago Tribune is all about. It opens with an account of me heading to court in 2007 to testify against a cab driver who had refused to pick my Seeing Eye dog Hanni and me up outside the Chicago Hilton on Michigan Avenue back in 2007. Now how could a cab driver ever refuse these two smiley faces? My husband Mike can see, and he helped me hail a cab outside our apartment building the morning I had to go testify. And yes, truth really is stranger than fiction: A cab driver refused to pick me up on the way to court! The guy slowed down for Mike, but then when he saw me standing there on the curb with Hanni, he said, “No dogs!” and sped off. Mike took down his license number and I reported the second cab driver, too.

Chicago cab drivers are required to take classes to learn about service dogs, and they have to pass a Public Chauffeur Licensing Exam before getting a livery license. They know they are required to pick us up, and the cab drivers I reported were fined for refusing to do so. More importantly, each had their livery license temporarily suspended.

I found an NBC News story that said a blind man in San Francisco complained to UberX after one of their drivers refused to pick him up with his guide dog. UberX apologized and gave him $20 credit toward his next ride. The driver was not penalized. From my Tribune article:

The Americans with Disabilities Act states that “public transportation authorities may not discriminate against people with disabilities in the provision of their services,” but since the vehicles used by ride-sharing companies are privately owned and operated by independent contractors, this is a legal gray area.

The blind man who was refused the ride might take civil action, but that could take a lot of time. And money. And that’s my problem with this whole ride-sharing thing. I didn’t have to pay a cent to report the Chicago cab drivers who disregarded the law, the cases were resolved quickly and efficiently, and the drivers were penalized. If a driver from a ride-sharing service refuses to pick me up with Whitney, my current Seeing Eye dog, I will have little recourse. The burden will be on me to pay to take the ride-sharing service and the driver to court.

So for now, I’m sticking with rides in regulated Chicago cabs. As it says in the final line of my op-ed piece, “I’m not against innovation, but I believe the new services should be subject to some regulation and required training — just like cabs.”


Comments may not reflect Easterseals' policies or positions.

Please read our community guidelines when posting comments.

  1. Beth Finke Says:

    Amen! Me, too.

  2. paul Says:

    I do believe that ALL for-hire transportation companies, which Uber and Lyft are, should meet the requirements of the ADA. I have heard claims they should not because that is what taxi cabs are for. This is just discrimination using technology to gain an exemption. Should taxi cabs claim the same exemption as the newer players in the market because they are now using technology and apps for their businesses? I think we can all agree that would not be a good idea. Starting a business means incurring the normal costs of doing business as well as adhering to local, state and federal laws. We don’t get to pick and choose which laws and regulations we choose to follow as business owners. Companies should have standards and be willing to service the entire community, not just those they deem worthy. So, yes, I do believe these companies and others should be required to follow the ADA.

Leave a Reply