Commentary: Thoughts about Uber Assist

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In its most recent effort to accommodate passengers with disabilities, Uber announced the availability of Uber Assist, a program to educate drivers about this population in California. While I applaud this concept, I also have other concerns. I had heard about the availability of Uber Assist in Chicago several months ago. Unfortunately, however, it seems like it’s not getting enough attention. In fact, I have read stories of people with disabilities using the Uber Assist feature, but much to their surprise (and disappointment) even the drivers are not aware about it.

As a blind person, I think features like Uber Assist have a lot of potential. Chances are that drivers are not intentionally discriminating against people with disabilities. Rather, they are unaware of how to assist us and about helpful adaptations. The problem is more serious given all of the stories in the media about Uber Drivers discriminating against passengers with service dogs. The fact that Uber vehicles are owned and operated by independent contractors only adds to the confusion of whether or not drivers should adhere to ADA standards and permit service dogs.

Programs like Uber Assist have a great deal of potential to succeed, and perhaps most importantly to educate the public about people with disabilities. If, for example, drivers are taught about how service animals assist people with disabilities, then they might not refuse to pick up the next blind passenger and dog guide they encounter. Hopefully in the near future more drivers and passengers will actually know about this service. Maybe then we won’t be left wondering if Uber Assist or similar programs really exist.

You can read more about Uber Assist as well as thoughts about the service from people with disabilities at http://7online.com/business/uber-pledges-better-rides-for-customers-with-disabilities-/868756/. What has your experience been with Uber or similar ridesharing services as a person with a disability? Thanks for reading!

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