Last week, Uber announced that it expanded its service to better accommodate people with disabilities with the introduction of uberASSIST. As part of the service, “driver-partners are specifically trained by Open Doors Organization to assist riders into vehicles and can accommodate folding wheelchairs, walkers, and scooters.”
The timing coincides nicely with this week’s 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and is good news for both passengers and for the progress of the peer-to-peer service industry as a whole. While the topic of driver accommodation isn’t a new one, it has become increasingly topical – and contentious at times – perhaps in part due to the rising popularity of the peer-to-peer industry.
We’ve been following the topic closely ourselves, as part of our year-long Pathways to Greater Inclusion of People with Disabilities Study. In partnership with disABILITYincites using a Lightspeed All Global panel of 5,000 people with disabilities, the study examines the segment’s consumption behaviors, unmet needs due to accessibility challenges, and other areas of focus never measured before. It depicts the disability journey and represents the most comprehensive research to-date about the unmet needs of people with disabilities, using the largest U.S. panel of adults with disabilities ever assembled.
In April, the study specifically looked at usage of taxis and car services and found that nearly 70% of people with disabilities used a taxi or car service in the past 12 months. Despite their high propensity to use taxis and car services, 60% of riders with disabilities are displeased with their overall experience due to the lack of driver awareness about their needs. Tonya Deniz, executive director of disABILITYincites, observed that this could be a potential boon for the peer-to-peer industry.
“Companies, particularly peer-to-peer service entities like Uber, Lyft and Airbnb, need to warrant the consideration of people with disabilities in the value creation process. All too often the exclusion of people with disabilities causes companies to seek retrofitted solutions to address access barriers. These problems could be mitigated or avoided altogether had the company considered the needs of people with disabilities from the very beginning,” Deniz stated.
With Uber’s announcement, and the upcoming ADA anniversary, it’s very possible more brands will consider the needs of people with disabilities as part of the pre-launch process. But as they do, it will be important to carefully consider this consumer. As Deniz reminds us, “People with disabilities are not a homogenous group.”