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Uber Boston partners with accessibility advocates

Connor Lenahan, a junior in the College of Communication, shares how he was charged $110.10 for a brief Uber ride Monday night due to SUV upcharges to accommodate his wheelchair. PHOTO BY SARAH SILBIGER/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF
Connor Lenahan, a junior in the College of Communication, shares how he was charged $110.10 for a brief Uber ride Monday night due to SUV upcharges to accommodate his wheelchair. PHOTO BY SARAH SILBIGER/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

Uber Boston announced last week that it would partner with three accessibility advocates in Massachusetts to help better accommodate the disabled community, a press release stated last Wednesday.

Uber will be partnering with the Disability Law Center, the Disability Policy Consortium and the Boston Center for Independent Living to provide increased mobility for all riders, according to the release. The groups will meet with Uber in the coming months to discuss how Uber can accommodate transportation options for all.

“As we look to the future for Uber Boston, we’re excited about the increased mobility and freedom our technology has afforded both riders and drivers with accessibility needs, and we’re proud to have partnered with accessibility advocates and leaders to introduce product innovations that facilitate greater economic opportunity for deaf and hard-of-hearing drivers,” the press release stated.

Karen Schneiderman, a community outreach worker at the Boston Center for Independent Living, said BCIL’s partnership with Uber is meant to provide an alternative to The Ride service for passengers with disabilities.

“The reason for [an Uber partnership] is that it is less expensive for the state than subsidizing The Ride, which is the paratransit service that people with disabilities use if they can’t use buses and subways,” Schneiderman said. “The cost of using the ride is expensive and you also have to call days in advance to schedule it, but with Uber, you can call the same day.”

John Winske, executive director of the Disability Policy Consortium, wrote in an email statement that the DPC is enthusiastic about its partnership with Uber.

“Uber and the DPC are innovative organizations,” Winske wrote. “I’m sure that working with our partners we will find ways to improve accessibility to persons with disabilities while respecting Uber’s unique structure and business plan.”

Christine Griffin, executive director of the Disability Law Center, said it is important to create solutions for existing transportation issues in the disabled community.

“We are looking forward to working with the [disabled] community to find out what their needs are and then brainstorming with Uber about the ways that they can make sure that they provide full access for everybody, since everyone who uses Uber seems to love the service,” Griffin said. “The disability community deserves to have a quick and reliable component of transportation.”

Several residents shared their thoughts on Uber’s commitment to making transportation more accessible.

Anya Burzynski, 24, of the South End, said Uber becoming more accessible would impact all citizens, disabled or not.

“I used to work at a dental clinic and we had a lot of people who needed The Ride, but they were always late because they were understaffed,” she said. “So if there was some way that Uber could be more accommodating to those people and it was affordable, that would make a huge difference not only for the people taking those rides, but also for providers and practitioners who are waiting on the other.”

Kate Martens, 30, of Brighton, said Uber’s goal to provide better disability services is a complex issue with many matters to consider.

“It’s so complicated because I think, of course, people with disabilities need to be accommodated and need to be accounted for, but on the other hand, I think Uber is taking a service that’s been standardized and top-down and corporate, and making it by the people, for the people,” she said. “So it’s harder to have that infrastructure when it’s a little bit more ad hoc.”

Martens added that Uber now has a responsibility to ensure accessibility because of its popularity amongst city residents.

“It’s an interesting issue, but again, as Uber becomes more and more ubiquitous and it’s what everybody uses, it’s certainly what I use,” she said. “I think they do need to catch up and think about everybody, and not just the people who are usually represented.”

Laney Monsey, 27, Back Bay, applauded Uber for expanding its customer base.

“It’s great that they’re doing that,” she said. “I think Uber realized they had some issues when they first started out being customer friendly across all dimensions and having a diverse customer base. I think it’s great that they’re doing more to reach those who need those rides and providing affordable options for them.”

One Comment

  1. anne sweeney

    Jan 5, 2016

    In My Opinion:

    Nicole Dungca of the Boston Globe has written on this, along with WBUR/WGBH talk with the Governor hour with Jim Braude and Margerie Egan, yet they never seem to address, “The Ride” component, which is very political. The lucrative contracts which go out to Greater Lynn Senior Services, managed by Board of Director CEO Paul Crowley, are in the hundreds of millions to fund, “The Ride” piece of the MBTA Pie. If Customers wish to Chime in, they can, by writing to the MBTA 10 Park Plaza, Boston, MA. 02116. If you believe that the Democrats run this aspect of the T, you be wrong. Conservatives run the Private contracting firms, often paying their employees the lowest wages. Elizabeth Warren, Ed Markey, Seth Moulton, Senator Thomas McGee all favor fair wages. Greater Lynn Senior Services Transportation, the contracted provider for, “The Ride” under the MBTA. Requires their employees pass the DOT exam and meet all MBTA employee requirements. Yet an MBTA employee earns over $100,000.00 per year, compared with $25,000.00-$30,000.00 per year for a contracted driver whom performs more work and is responsible for more on the job tasks/duties. These unlivable wages for “The Ride” component send the wrong message to the public.

    MBTA funded employees, are the highest paid in the Nation, while private companies working under contract under the same MBTA Guidelines start out at $11.00-12.00 per hour. Yet they have the same Teamsters Union representing them, driving down their wages, due to the many deductions which come with the GLSS benefit Union Package.

    Greater Lynn Senior Services Transportation Managers, supposedly under the Non-Profit Clause, re-named by the MBTA as the “Santa Claus provision”, pays over six figures to the Top Heavy Management Staff, Directors, Paul Crowley, Steve Epps, Ray Crouteau, Marie Castineyra, Lisa Wharf, Lisa Darlington and John Soucy, along with other privately contracted MBTA bureaucrats represent some of the highest wages and benefits in the Nation. Unlike Private Companys which sub-contract their HR, Payroll and Separate departments, GLSS is top heavy with over-paid staff at the Top.

    Political appointments come down from the MBTA to GLSS, as an opportunity to double dip while the working employees receive less and less of the Pie. Director Steve Epps is a former 26 year MBTA veteran, receiving his lucrative pension, plus the many private MBTA, State and Federal Government subsidized companies he has worked for, making for a very, very comfortable retirement?

    Hey, I’m Jealous who wouldn’t want a piece of that Pie.

    My suggestion, fire non-essential MBTA management and pay the Private Contractor Employees a fair and livable wage. The key word is: “Non-Essential”

    Mr. Hudak and Fitzgerald need to pay more attention to this quasi-private, non-profit, cash cow. Hey, now there’s a true Oxymoron.

    Dan Rae with WBZ on Feb. 23rd 2016 had a caller that evening on Night Side: A visually impaired customer with GLSS from Lynn called in and told a story of no, door 2 door service offered. Yet it seems that training, quality, and great employees all start at the Top, yet the management team at GLSS has not only failed their employees, they have failed the Public to whom they Serve.

    Great Article on Uber, Uber should pay taxes and medical benefits along with better training programs than what is in place now, offered by, The Ride. Better driver training and better equipment will better serve the public. The Governor, Charlie Baker, should consider contracting out oversight of all Ride components.