Albany should make Uber support accessibility


Uber-ForceBY JAMES WEISMAN | State legislators are considering requiring Uber to contribute funding to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority — but they should also make the ride-sharing company support wheelchair-accessible transportation.

One would think that a multibillion-dollar company would be willing to address accessibility on its own, but Uber has consistently discriminated against wheelchair users in New York.

Uber has more than 30,000 vehicles on the road in New York City, but none are wheelchair accessible. The company has refused to add accessible vehicles to its fleet, leaving tens of thousands of wheelchair users stranded at the curb.

Uber also does not pay the same fees paid by yellow and green cabs to help fund mass transit and wheelchair accessibility in New York. Cabs pay a 50-cent fee on each trip to support the M.T.A., as well as a 30-cent fee — known as the Taxi Improvement Fund — to help put more wheelchair-accessible cars on the road.


The creation of the Taxi Improvement Fund in 2014 was a huge step forward in promoting accessibility in our city. The fund incentivizes taxi medallion owners to transition to wheelchair-accessible vehicles by covering both the capital and operating cost of accessibility equipment. This has played a direct role in allowing the taxi industry to better serve New York City’s wheelchair users — something Uber refuses to do.

Now there is an opportunity to change that.

Last month, state Senators Brad Hoylman and Martin Malave Dilan introduced legislation that would require Uber and other for-hire vehicle services to pay 25 percent of their New York sales tax revenue into a fund supporting the M.T.A.

However, Uber should not just be required to pay some of what cabs already pay — it should be required to pay all of it. That includes the Taxi Improvement Fund to improve accessible transportation.

We hope Senators Hoylman and Dilan and their Albany colleagues will recognize the need to support New York City wheelchair users whose civil rights have been ignored by Uber for too long. Amending this legislation to require Uber to pay into the Taxi Improvement Fund would set a powerful precedent and show that state legislators think transportation should serve all New Yorkers — not just those who can walk.

And as Uber continues to try to expand in New York City and into Upstate New York, that strong precedent is needed now more than ever.

We are continuing to call on all state lawmakers to require 100 percent wheelchair accessibility in Uber’s fleet for any potential Upstate expansion. We remain hopeful that, in the absence of any action by Uber, Albany will not allow this discrimination against wheelchair users to continue.

For now, Senators Hoylman and Dilan can take action by using their new legislation to champion access to wheelchair-accessible transportation in New York City. We hope they will do it soon.

Weisman is president and C.E.O., United Spinal Association, a disability rights group.