Heard Around Town: Accessibility advocate asks Stringer, James to get involved with Uber
Tired of “vague promises” and “commitments,” one accessible transit advocate is calling on the New York City comptroller and public advocate to compel Mayor Bill de Blasio to move on regulating Uber.
Dustin Jones, who filed a complaint against Uber with the New York City Human Rights Commission and created the United for Equal Access group focused on disability rights, sent letters Wednesday to Comptroller Scott Stringer and Public Advocate Letitia James asking them to break their silence on Uber, “speak out against the company’s discrimination against New York’s wheelchair users,” and ultimately, “compel the de Blasio administration to finally end this injustice.”
The letters contend the de Blasio administration has pledged to take regulatory action and the City Council has committed to making transit more accessible, but no concrete action or legislation to mandate accessibility in the for-hire vehicle industry has emerged.
Stringer said he intended to work with the industry and advocates on improving accessibility among for-hire vehicles, which encompasses services outside of the yellow medallion taxi industry.
“Progress on accessibility has been too slow in coming to the for-hire vehicle industry,” Stringer said in a statement. “My office has long advocated for a transportation system that serves all New Yorkers, including new mandates requiring FHV’s to do more to serve the disability community. I look forward to working with advocates and the FHV industry to ensure that every New Yorker can secure a safe, accessible vehicle at the push of a button."
James’ office did not immediately return requests for comment.
Jones’ group already released a TV ad ripping de Blasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito for their stance on Uber. De Blasio spokesman Austin Finan said his administration “works every day to improve accessibility and safety of transit.” Under pressure, de Blasio previously aborted attempts to limit the growth of Uber, which Stringer spoke out against.
“We are exploring avenues to secure accessibility improvements in the for-hire vehicle fleet, and instituted a new rule ensuring half of yellow cabs are wheelchair accessible by 2020 and one in three green borough taxis are wheelchair accessible by 2024,” Finan said in a statement.
And Eric Koch, a spokesman for the speaker, said, as previously articulated by the Council, “We are committed to working with stakeholders to develop a comprehensive taxi system that will not only quickly and efficiently connect accessible vehicles and riders, but that will incentivize drivers to offer accessible service."
Uber spokeswoman Alix Anfang said the e-hailing company is examining ways to improve service for people with disabilities. In August 2014 Uber launched its UberWAV service, which works with green and yellow taxis that must be able large enough to stow a foldable wheelchair.
“Uber’s technology has helped make accessible rides a reality in New York because our app quickly and reliably connects the limited number of drivers in accessible vehicles to riders on the street who need them,” Anfang said in a statement. “Before Uber, these riders were too often left stranded waiting for one of the small number of accessible cabs to pull up.”
You can view the letters below: