Uber is a lift-share company that works by matching people looking for lifts with available drivers via a smartphone app. Up until recently this service was not available for wheelchair users, but that looks set to change in Philadelphia.
The company has negotiated a new contract with licensed ‘paratransit’ drivers who own disability accessible vehicles meaning that wheelchair users can now take advantage of the service. The development is intended to persuade a Harrisburg legislative committee to pass legislation permitting Uber to operate in Philadelphia and around the state.
Disgruntled Philadelphia taxi service operators fearing competition have complained that Uber doesn’t offer vehicles that are suitable for wheelchair users. There is a distinct scarcity of wheelchair accessible cabs in the current 1,600-strong fleet, only seven in fact. In response to this, the Philadelphia Parking Authority is planning to issue 45 parking permits to accessible minivan cabs in 2015, with a further 150 to be issued over the next seven years.
A spokesman for Liberty Resources Inc, an advocacy group for people with disabilities, was impressed with the preview of the service Uber intends to offer and described the company’s entry into the taxi service marketplace as, “very welcome”.
Uber has offered contracts to drivers who already hold certificates that were issued by the Pennsylvania PUC. This means that Uber will be able to operate the service without the need for Parking Authority regulation. Uber operates under a brokerage license issued by the PUC which allows them to arrange and operate the wheelchair-accessible rides. All Uber’s drivers must be PUC certified and their vehicles must be inspected for safety and insured.
The Uber ride-share service is good news for wheelchair users in Philadelphia and across the state. Uber hopes to extend the service to other states and cities in the future.
Image of an Uber vehicle in Philadelphia city: image