New Yorkers in wheelchairs protest Uber at Manhattan offices over accessibility

Wheelchair-using activists marked Human Rights Day on Thursday by protesting at Uber’s Manhattan office, calling for all of its black cars to be accessible.

The app currently offers a service that it started last year called uberWAV, which lets passengers search for a wheelchair-accessible taxi near them. Uber says almost 4,0000 passengers use the service each month. However, its black-car services are not wheelchair-accessible.

Dustin Jones, a 27-year-old from the West Farms section of the Bronx who uses a wheelchair, said he wants all of Uber’s cars to be accessible to him. “We deserve to have the same options as able-bodied people,” he said.

He said he won’t use uberWAV because he can hail a wheelchair-accessible green cab in the Bronx on his own and wants to use the app to get a black car.

“It’s insulting almost,” he said. “Uber is a $60 billion company. They can definitely invest in the disability community.”

Elizabeth Ramos, a 54-year-old advocate who uses a wheelchair and lives in Starrett City in Brooklyn, said she wants to be able to use Uber’s black-car options.

“It doesn’t have a meter. They send a picture, they text you,” she said. “I would love to use Uber; it’s not accessible.”

The protest was organized by the United Spinal Association, which advocates for people with a spinal cord injury or disease, and the Taxis for All Campaign. A similar protest was held over the summer as well.

Uber spokeswoman Alix Anfang said the app “has helped make the accessible taxi system work, allowing New Yorkers with disabilities to get a reliable ride within minutes, instead of being left stranded.”

She said the company is “constantly exploring new ways to better serve all people with disabilities. Uber has in fact been commended by members of the disability community for increasing the freedom and mobility of riders and drivers with disabilities.”

Half of the city’s yellow cabs will be wheelchair-accessible by 2020, according to a settlement agreement that the city reached in 2013 with groups that included the Taxis for All Campaign.

The Mayor’s Office for People With Disabilities estimates that 90,000 New Yorkers use wheelchairs.

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