From Democrat & Chronicle:
Gov. Andrew Cuomo just failed a huge test of his commitment to supporting New Yorkers with disabilities. His new upstate ridesharing proposal would allow companies such as Uber to continue discriminating against wheelchair users across the state.
Uber has operated in New York City since 2011 and now has more than 35,000 on the road, but few are wheelchair-accessible. The multi-billion-dollar company has consistently refused to engage in a real dialogue about providing equal access to tens of thousands of wheelchair users in New York City or anywhere else in the state.
The ultimate goal of ridesharing companies such as Uber is to convince state leaders to let them expand statewide while continuing to deny service to New York’s wheelchair users. Unfortunately, they have had some success so far — but that needs to change.
Gov. Cuomo’s ridesharing proposal — unveiled in his recent State of the State addresses — gives Uber a free pass to discriminate because it does not include a clear accessibility mandate. Instead, the governor’s pitch to the state legislature calls for “creating a task force to review, study and make recommendations regarding accessibility needs in the rideshare industry in an effort to protect and provide transportation to vulnerable populations.”
We don’t need a task force to know that Uber’s refusal to serve wheelchair users is shameful and unfair. We don’t need a task force to know that Uber has no interest in taking its own steps to provide equal access. And we don’t need a task force to know that the only way to solve this problem is by requiring Uber to put accessible vehicles on the road.
Gov. Cuomo’s proposal is especially disappointing because we expected more from someone who has been so supportive of our community. Last year, the governor allocated millions in much-needed funding to provide more comprehensive employment services to people with disabilities. In 2015, he signed key legislation to protect people with disabilities from discrimination at hotels, restaurants and other places of public accommodation.
The good news is that there is still time for the governor and legislative leaders to craft a better ridesharing plan that ends Uber’s discrimination and ensures equal access for wheelchair users. But the clock is ticking — and we only have one chance to get this right.
Dustin Jones is founder of United for Equal Access New York, a board member of Disabled In Action Of Metropolitan New York and Center For The Independence Of The Disabled New York.
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