According to CNET, Lyft has agreed to pay the United States government $40,000 over claims that the company’s drivers discriminate against people with wheelchairs. In addition to paying the government, Lyft has also paid damages to four people with disabilities who filed discrimination claims.
The U.S. Department of Justice filed the complaint against Lyft, alleging that the rideshare company violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The federal law protects people with disabilities. It was passed in 1990 and its 30th anniversary is next month in July. Under the ADA, all transportation providers are required to accommodate wheelchairs if the equipment can be stowed in the vehicle.
The Department of Justice started its investigation after a Los Angeles-based man, who uses a foldable wheelchair, filed more than 12 complaints against the company. According to him, he was regularly refused rides or treated rudely because of his wheelchair.
In addition to his complaint, several other lawsuits have been filed against Lyft over claims of discrimination. In those claims, the plaintiffs are alleging Lyft doesn’t provide enough wheelchair-accessible vehicles and doesn’t properly train its drivers about ADA. In addition to the Los Angeles man, two other people say they have been denied rides for being in a wheelchair—including a veteran who lost both of his legs in combat. Another rider claims she was refused because she uses a walker.
Lyft is not the only rideshare company to be hit with discrimination lawsuits. Uber has also been sued by disability rights groups under similar allegations. While both companies have policies that forbid discrimination and expect drivers to accommodate wheelchairs, some drivers continue to violate the policy and federal law.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in seven people in the United States has a mobility disability. While Lyft claims to supports disabled passengers with folding wheelchairs and non-folding wheelchairs in wheelchair-accessible vehicles in a handful of cities across the country, many disability rights advocates say it’s nearly impossible to get a ride in one of Lyft’s wheelchair-accessible vehicles.
To meet the demands and needs of passengers, Lyft needs to ensure its drivers are properly trained and aware of their legal obligations regarding the ADA. If Lyft fails to take actions to fix this issue, it’s likely they will be hit with fines in the future and additional pushback from disability rights groups and advocates.