Written by Mackenzie Saunders:
June 22, 2020, was a big day for people with disabilities. On that day, Lyft settled a lawsuit with the Department of Justice, which claimed that Lyft has discriminated against riders with disabilities: specifically, people who use foldable wheelchairs or walkers. In response to the settlement, Lyft is required to pay a $42,000 fine to the four people who were suing Lyft for their discriminatory actions, and Lyft is also required to change their policies to accommodate riders who use foldable mobility devices.
Lyft now has policies that explicitly tell drivers that they cannot deny a ride to someone with a disability because of their foldable mobility device. Drivers are now required to accept rides from passengers with disabilities with foldable wheelchairs or walkers, and they are required to offer help if the rider needs assistance. Drivers who fail to adhere to these policies are subject to removal from Lyft’s platform.
If you use a wheelchair that can be folded up in the back of a car, or if you use a foldable walker, you can no longer be denied a Lyft ride because of your disability. Before this policy change, many people were being denied rides from rideshare drivers due to their disabilities — including The Spinal Cord Injury Law Firm Founder Kelley Simoneaux. Kelley was denied a ride in 2018 because of her wheelchair, even though she explained to the driver that she could easily fold the wheelchair and place it in the back of the car. Today, denying Kelley a Lyft ride would violate Lyft’s policies.
Unfortunately, people who use non-foldable wheelchairs, such as powerchairs, are not included in this policy change. Lyft has taken steps to help riders with non-foldable wheelchairs by expanding their number of wheelchair-accessible vehicles and partnering with paratransit services with accessible vans. However, riders with wheelchairs that do not fold up can still be denied a Lyft ride because of their disabilities.
Evidently, there is a long way to go before Lyft fully includes everyone in their services. But today, let’s celebrate the fact that we are one step closer to a fully accessible rideshare service for all.