October 13, 2016

Much Shelist filed a federal complaint today against Uber Technologies Inc., on behalf of non-profit Access Living of Metropolitan Chicago, along with plaintiffs Michelle Garcia, Rahnee Patrick and Justin Cooper, for violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The complaint (Access Living of Metropolitan Chicago, et al v. Uber Technologies, Inc., et al) was filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division.

Access Living is a Chicago-based, nationally recognized, not-for-profit advocacy organization for people with disabilities. Garcia and Patrick are employees of Access Living. Cooper is a member of Access Living’s Young Professionals’ Council.
 
The suit alleges that Uber operates a service that is unusable by people who use motorized wheelchairs and other mobility devices, in violation of the ADA’s national mandate to eliminate discrimination against persons with disabilities, including discrimination in discounted travel and transportation services.
 
“Transportation access has always been a central issue of civil rights for people with disabilities,” said Steven P. Blonder, Principal in the Litigation & Dispute Resolution practice group at Much Shelist, Chair of the firm’s Social Responsibility Committee, and lead counsel on the complaint against Uber. “Transportation is key to the independence of people with disabilities, providing a link to education, employment and social activities. As a growing player in our transportation system, Uber is responsible for delivering its part of that link.”
 
For people who use motorized wheelchairs or manual wheelchairs and cannot transfer their chairs into a car, Uber offers a service called UberWAV. The plaintiffs assert that this service has so few vehicles that it often shows no rides available anywhere in the Chicago area.
 
According to Access Living representatives, for more than two years, despite repeated assurances from Uber representatives, Uber has failed to provide wheelchair-accessible services to motorized wheelchair users that are equivalent to the services provided to UberX passengers. In 2016, Uber campaigned aggressively against a proposed amendment to a Chicago City Council rideshare ordinance that would have required Uber to provide equivalent services. The ordinance that eventually passed includes no mention of equivalent services for passengers who require wheelchair-accessible vehicles.
 
“Access Living had no choice but to take the significant action of litigation. People with disabilities have fought for generations to gain rights to equal services, ranging from mainline transit to taxis,” said Marca Bristo, President and CEO of Access Living. “This suit continues the struggle to enable individuals with disabilities to participate as full members of society. It is also a fight to avoid losing ground, as Uber pushes out existing accessible transportation services, further limiting options for people with disabilities.”
 
Much Shelist is providing legal counsel to Access Living on a pro bono basis. David T.  Brown, the firm’s Chairman, said, “One of our firm’s founding principles is to do our part to improve lives in our community regardless of background and circumstance. This includes working to guarantee the civil liberties of our fellow citizens, especially when the system isn’t working the way it should be. We are honored to work with Access Living to ensure its constituents enjoy accessible transportation that is equivalent to the services the non-disabled receive, and to see that service providers abide by ADA requirements.”