Uber Responds to the Market, Invests in Making Rides Wheelchair-Accessible

Anti-capitalism advocates often blame the market economy for all problems created either by the government or government-enabled monopolies. So it’s not surprising to see them ignore the fact that one of the main features of a market economy is that private entities will go the extra mile to meet any need, big or small. To them, an action is only benevolent if it comes from the government, so how could an evil, private organization do something good?

Now that Uber is boosting its fleet of vehicles offering wheelchair-accessible rides to disabled passengers, it won’t take long until articles bemoaning the program pop up. The first line of wheelchair-accessible Uber vehicles is part of MV Transportation’s fleet, which has been taking requests through the app since July in Philadelphia. Now, a statement released by Uber reads, the service is being expanded, responding to disabled riders efficiently in at least five other cities: Boston; New York City; Washington, D.C.; Chicago; and Toronto.

MV Transportation and Uber are now planning on expanding also to Los Angeles and San Francisco next year.

“We’re committed to making accessibility a meaningful part of what we do, and we’re proud to be doing our part to enable improved access to transportation for people with disabilities,” the statement added.

When discussing the project, Uber’s Malcolm Glenn said the firm is “invested quite heavily in this,” spending “tens of millions of dollars” to get the project going in the first year, he added.

One of the main differences riders on wheelchairs noticed after the partnership went into effect was that they no longer have to wait long for their ride.

“The last couple of times I rode Uber, my wait was under 10 minutes,” Theresa Yates, a rider with disabilities, said, adding she had to wait 15 to 20 minutes in the past.

Much like Uber, Lyft has also partnered with other companies to provide accessible rides to people with disabilities, especially those who are blind or visually impaired.

As recently as May 2018, news outlets referenced a report published by the New York Lawyers for the Public Interest that concluded that ride-sharing companies failed people with disabilities 70 percent of the time, at least in New York City.

The report followed a lawsuit brought against Uber by disability advocates who argued the company denied equal access to people who use wheelchairs.

Yet, just a few months after the report was released Uber is investing tens of millions in making ride-sharing wheelchair-friendly.

The Market Responds, Unlike Bureaucrats

People who use wheelchairs in the United States are heavily dependent on their cars. According to a study conducted by University of Arizona's Professor of Planning Sandra Rosenbloom, that may have a lot to do with the lack of quality public transportation in their area, as about one-third of respondents with disabilities said they were forced to use their cars, not because of health-related problems, but because of lack of access to alternatives.

Despite this report, we continue to hear about local governments and their failure to meet users’ needs. Yet, in 2014 alone, public spending on transportation and water infrastructure totaled $416 billion, with local and state governments doing most of the spending. Could it possibly be that local governments are not getting enough money to develop top-notch mass transportation to all local residents?

It’s clear that the answer is no. We may conclude that no matter how much we complain to public officials about lack of proper access, nothing ever changes.

Unlike public agencies, companies must adapt to make sure their consumers are happy. Otherwise, they go out of business.

Uber got the message loud and clear when users and researchers found its services were failing its customers using wheelchairs. Now, it is investing in changing its attitude toward disabled riders. Interestingly enough, within just a few months users already reported improvements. That’s more than we can say about transportation services provided by the state.

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Chloe Anagnos

Chloe Anagnos is AIER's Publications Manager. She is a writer and digital marketer and has been an AIER contributor since 2017. Her work has been the subject of articles in FOX News, USA Today, CNN Money, and WIRED. She has been a writer, commentator, and panelist for media outlets around the country on subjects like political marketing, campaigning, and social media. Follow @ChloeAnagnos.