‘People with disabilities should not be made to feel like second-class citizens or punished because of their disability’, DOJ says
Uber has agreed to a $2m settlement following a lawsuit from the US Department of Justice (DOJ) involving allegations that the company violated the Americans With Disabilities Act by charging disabled riders extra because they needed more time to get into their vehicles.
DOJ filed the lawsuit in 2021, arguing that Uber began charging wait fees in 2016 for passengers who needed more than two minutes to enter a vehicle after its arrival.
The fees were applied to those who were late but also to disabled persons who needed more time to get in, including blind riders, or individuals using walkers or wheelchairs.
Uber agreed in the settlement to waive fees for passengers who certify that they are disabled and to refund disabled riders who are charged wait fees, according to The New York Times.
The settlement also means that the company will pay compensations to riders to the tune of $1.7m divided up between more than 1,000 disabled riders who made complaints about the wait fees as well as $500,000 to “other harmed individuals” who have been identified by DOJ.
The 65,000 riders who registered for the waiver programme will be refunded twice the amount of the waiting fees that they initially paid.
An assistant attorney general in DOJ’s civil rights division, Kristen Clarke, said in a statement that “people with disabilities should not be made to feel like second-class citizens or punished because of their disability, which is exactly what Uber’s wait time fee policy did”.
According to the settlement, Uber denied the DOJ allegations, but the company said that it had been trying to improve its accessibility options, adding that the average wait fee in 2020 was less than 60 cents.
A spokesperson said the company had already put the waiver programme into use.
“It has long been our policy to refund wait time fees for riders with a disability when they alerted us that they were charged, and prior to this matter being filed we made changes so that any rider who shares that they have a disability would have wait time fees waived automatically,” Noah Edwardsen said in a statement.