SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A California federal judge has rejected a legal push to require Uber to provide wheelchair-accessible vehicles, finding that such a mandate would be too onerous on the ride-hailing company.
U.S. District Chief Judge Richard Seeborg ruled Monday in San Francisco against Scott Crawford of Mississippi and two co-plaintiffs from New Orleans who had argued that Uber's lack of wheelchair-accessible vehicles in New Orleans and Jackson, Mississippi, violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.
But Seeborg wrote that the plaintiffs failed to present a reasonable modification of Uber's services and didn't provide adequate evidence that the company had violated the law.
The ruling followed a bench trial that lasted nearly five years. The two New Orleans residents were the first to sue the company, alleging that the absence of wheelchair-accessible vehicles in the city was a violation of the ADA, WLBT-TV said. Crawford then used the same argument in calling for the vehicles in Jackson.
“Uber made no sincere attempt to provide accessible service, but instead claimed it was too burdensome,” he said. “This could have been economically resolved years ago.”
Attorneys for the plaintiffs argued that Uber has a “deep-rooted accessibility problem” and treats accessibility as an “afterthought.”
Attorneys for Uber said the programs would cost too much and would not be workable in either municipality. According to estimates obtained by Uber and cited in the decision, the cost for providing the service would cost $800,000 per year in New Orleans and $550,000 in Jackson.
The decision said costs were based on 16 hours of service on weekdays and 10 hours per day on weekends. Even with three vehicles equipped to provide the service available at any given time, some ride requests might go unfulfilled.
Uber offers services to accommodate wheelchair users in several other cities, including New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Boston. The company uses commercial operator agreements to fulfill the service in each city, WLBT-TV reported.
Court records state that New Orleans considered an ordinance requiring Uber to provide the service, but “Uber lobbied against that ordinance."
Crawford, a disability rights activist, decried the arrival of the decision on the eve of the anniversary of the ADA's signature into law. President George H. W. Bush signed the act on July 26, 1990.
Crawford said state lawmakers during next year's legislative session should mandate that ride-hailing services provide wheelchair-accessible vehicles. He is considering appealing the court's ruling but said he hasn’t made a final decision.