Federal judge allows disability rights advocates to sue Lyft
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Federal judge allows disability rights advocates to sue Lyft

A federal judge ruled Tuesday that disability rights organizations have standing to sue Lyft for allegedly violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The lawsuit, filed in March, was initiated by the Independent Living Resources Center, a California non-profit disability rights organization, and a few other organizations and disabled individuals.

In their complaint, the organizations alleged that Lyft violated the ADA’s nondiscrimination requirements by offering wheelchair-accessible vehicle (WAV) services that are more restrictive (longer wait time and less than 24-hours a day operation) than their non-WAV services and by failing to offer any WAV services in certain counties of the Bay Area.

The organizations invoked section 12184 of the ADA, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability from “full and equal enjoyment of public transportation services,” including those offered by a “private entity that is primarily engaged in the business of transporting people.”

Under section 12184, discrimination includes “a failure to make reasonable modifications in policies … when such modifications are necessary to afford such goods, services, facilities … to individuals with disabilities.”

The organizations contended that Lyft failed to modify its discriminatory policies, practices and procedures as required by Section 12184 and proposed four possible modifications Lyft could implement.

They proposed that Lyft (1) use incentives and marketing to recruit independent contractor drivers to provide WAV services, (2) provide lease or rental options to WAV drivers, (3) partner with third-party providers of WAV services, or (4) use a combination of any of the three propositions.

Lyft, on the other hand, challenged—among other things—the organizations’ standing to pursue legal action against them.

However, the court ruled on Tuesday that the organizations had standing to sue Lyft. It concluded that the inability to access WAV services equivalent to those offered to other customers was a direct injury to the organizations which gave them standing to sue Lyft.

As to whether Lyft discriminated against individuals with disabilities by failing to reasonably modify its policies, the court concluded that a further hearing as to the reasonableness of proposed modifications (2) and (4) was needed. It did, however, rule out proposed modification (1) and (3) as unreasonable.