In a complaint filed today with the Commission on Human Rights in New York City, Dustin Jones, alleges that Uber is discriminating against the disabled.
Jones, a wheelchair user, claims that Uber has not done enough to enable riders in wheelchairs to use the service. It also includes video footage of Jones being denied a ride by an Uber driver who says that he cannot accomodate the wheelchair in his vehicle.
According to the complaint:
Uber claims to accept wheelchair accessible vehicles in its service, but provides no requirements, guidelines, incentives, or encouragements to do so. Uber partners with local dealerships to rent or lease vehicles to potential drivers, but offer no option for wheelchair accessible vehicles.
The point of contention from Uber is that it’s not a public transportation provider and that it’s not subject to New York human rights laws.
Jones questions that distinction in the claim, writing: “[Uber] hires, manages and dispatches drivers, holds itself out to the public as a way to obtain transportation through its smartphone app” and it should operate under the same city transportation regulations as any other public transport provider.
The issue at hand here is much larger than Uber and Jones.
In the sharing economy, should companies like Uber, Lift and Airbnb be required to meet the same guidelines as their traditional couterparts?
Jones’ complaint could set a valuable precedent in answering these questions.