After being accused of denying rides to people with disabilities in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the popular ride-sharing service Lyft has agreed to update its policies and procedures to prevent further discrimination against people using foldable or collapsible wheelchairs and walkers and ensure equal access to rides. As part of a settlement reached earlier this week with the U.S Department of Justice, the company has said that it will notify new drivers and frequently remind current drivers about the revised policies, as well as create an educational video for drivers.
This settlement is the result of an investigation conducted by the United States Attorney’s Office under the authority granted by the Americans with Disabilities Act, which was prompted by “at least a dozen complaints” from an individual which indicated that Los Angeles area drivers had either treated him rudely, refused to drive him, or could not transport him due to his wheelchair. Eight of his complaints stated that drivers refused or could not transport him due to his wheelchair, and four stated that drivers were rude towards him because of his wheelchair. Three other individuals also filed complaints which stated that they had been denied rides because of a walker or a wheelchair.
Technically, Lyft already had a wheelchair policy in place prior to the settlement, which was available for review on its website. That policy states that “[P]assengers who use wheelchairs that can safely and securely fit in the car’s trunk or backseat without obstructing the driver’s view should be reasonably accommodated by drivers on the Lyft Platform. Drivers should make every reasonable effort to transport the passenger and their wheelchair.” The website even included information about helping passengers with disabilities, and how to load foldable and collapsible wheelchairs. Despite these resources being readily available, Lyft did not require any drivers to actually review its wheelchair policy.
The United States alleges that, “Lyft did not have in place a process to educate drivers regarding the safe operation of vehicles and equipment and proper assistance and treatment of individuals with disabilities who use the Lyft platform, with appropriate attention to the difference among individuals with disabilities.” The United States also claimed that Lyft did not have a designated employee to coordinate its efforts to comply with the ADA, nor was there a complaint system that complied with the ADA. Lyft, however, denied being subject to the ADA, discriminating against any of the complainants, as well as any other wrongdoing.
Despite this disagreement, Lyft has agreed to enact a complaint procedure that complies with federal law and will hold drivers accountable for complying with the new wheelchair policy with punishment including possible termination. Lyft shall publicize an educational video to its drivers and use an appropriate process to incentivize drivers to watch the educational video. For riders who make “plausible complaints of discrimination will receive a refund and a $10.00 credit under the arrangement. In addition to these changes, Lyft will have to pay damages between $4,000.00 and $30,000.00 to the four disabled individuals instigated the investigation and led to this settlement. Lyft will also have to pay a $40,000.00 civil penalty, and will be required to issue biannual reports to the Justice Department over the next three years that outline the company’s efforts to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
A company spokeswoman for Lyft issued the following statement, “We’re glad that through this agreement, we will continue improving our policies and making it easier for people with foldable wheelchairs and other collapsible mobility devices to get around using Lyft,” a company spokeswoman said in a statement. “Lyft is committed to maintaining an inclusive and welcoming community, and we’re proud that many people with disabilities who were previously underserved by existing transportation options now use Lyft as a reliable, safe, and affordable way to get around.”
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