Task force examining how ride sharing services can better accommodate the disabled

Dec 6, 2018

A special task force has been holding listening sessions across the state to get an idea about where ride sharing services fit in for individuals with disabilities.

The legislation that allowed Uber and Lyft to operate in upstate New York and Long Island last year also created the Transportation Network Company Accessibility Task Force. 

"This is going to give us information that we can then submit to the governor or legislature to consider actions or legislation and policy changes that might help make ride sharing more available to people with disabilities," said task force co-chair Betty DeFazio.

At a forum held in Syracuse last week, Phil Prehn of the advocacy group ARISE said there are some issues that need to be addressed, like if someone with a power wheelchair calls for a ride.

"There are few if any accessible vehicles particularly for someone in a power wheelchair that can weigh several hundred pounds that someone can’t easily get in and out of," Prehn said. "There are none of those in Central New York.”

Agnes McCrea told the panel she needs options like Uber and Lyft to transport her and her motorized wheelchair. She said she recently had trouble getting home in a snowstorm, when a bus was on a snow route and couldn’t take her.

"I was like about a half hour from my home, and it took me three hours to get home driving my wheelchair in the snow," McCrea said.

It’s more complicated though than offering the services. For example, advocates say there aren’t any Uber or Lyft cars in central New York that can handle a several hundred pound motorized wheelchair.  They also say individuals with service animals sometimes can’t get rides, and there can be language barriers.

In rural communities, advocates say Uber and Lyft aren't even an option. They’d like to see better training for drivers who may have to deal with the disabled population and incentives that would make it easier to offer handicapped accessible vehicles, or drivers in more rural areas.