California court rules Uber not required to provide wheelchair accessible vehicles

A California District Court Tuesday ruled that Uber’s refusal to provide electric wheelchair accessible vehicles (WAV) does not violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Under the ADA, private transportation entities cannot discriminate based on disability. Private transporters must make “reasonable modifications in policies, practices, or procedures . . . unless the entity can demonstrate that making such modifications would fundamentally alter the nature” of services provided.

The plaintiffs were three disabled individuals from New Orleans, Louisiana and Jackson, Mississippi. They claimed Uber failed to make reasonable modifications to their operations by providing WAVs and that Uber screened disabled people from enjoying its transportation services. Uber argued that implementing a WAV modification in the Plaintiffs’ cities would “fundamentally alter its business” because it “would need to use a commercial fleet operator” that would be a substantial deviation from its business model.

The court reasoned that providing WAVs in New Orleans and Jackson would not constitute a “reasonable modification.” The cost per ride, anticipated wait times and service only at certain times per day made the proposed modification unreasonable. Thus, the court concluded, Uber is not required to provide WAVs under the ADA.