Rideshare Accessibility Features: UberWav, Lyft Access Mode, and More!

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Adapted from https://www.uber.com/ and https://www.lyft.com/

As I venture out into my research specific to the transition of students and young adults with disabilities from high school into postsecondary settings, such as in higher education institutions or the workplace, I always stumble across some wonderful features. I was working on a presentation specifically on apps that increase postsecondary productivity and accessibility for the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) Division on Career Development and Transition (DCDT) conference and found that both rideshare companies Uber and Lyft offer accessibility features. If you have any experience with them I would love to see your comments and what you thought, especially if you have or have traveled with someone with a dis/ability.

In this post I am including both Uber and Lyft, but it is important to note that there are other rideshare options available. Many people have preferences based on their geographical location and access to drivers in their area so be sure to also check out other public transportation or rideshare options if these do not work for you.

What is ridesharing?

Need to catch a ride? You don’t need to hail a taxi anymore or wait for a bus. Now you can pull up your smartphone, hire a driver, and get to your destination. Ridesharing is a service that arranges one-way transportation almost immediately. The two biggest ridesharing companies are Uber and Lyft. The biggest difference between them is their availability. As of early 2017, Uber is found in more than 250 cities in 45 countries, while Lyft is in more than 60 cities in the United States and Southeast Asia (GCF Global, 2022).

To use a ridesharing program, the rider will need:

  1. smartphone
  2. credit card or Paypal account
  3. The Uber or Lyft app (You can download Uber and Lyft for iOS and Android)

Ridesharing as a Transition-based Secondary Activity

What we consider public transportation is quickly being transformed with the increase in technology and accessibility features. The combination of ridesharing and accessibility is one transition-related skill that educators in secondary institutions can recommend to parents to start practicing at home. You do have to be 18 or over to ride, but parents can start early prior to graduation to support the their child through the process and learn how to navigate the applications. Educators at school can also use lyft and uber fare estimation tools within the apps or through the website to start setting the foundation for cost association with transportation (i.e, financial literacy and financial education). During this process, I would also recommend reviewing the Goodwill Community Foundation, Inc. and the websites for both Lyft and Uber on ridesharing safety specifically for those with dis/abilities who may be at a higher risk of danger and/or extortion. This would be an excellent opportunity to discuss etiquette in the car, positive social or communication behaviors, and how to monitor for landmarks and key streets while in the car.

Uber fare calculator: https://www.uber.com/global/en/price-estimate/

Lyft fare calculator: https://www.lyft.com/rider/fare-estimate

Uber Accessibility Features

A few of the features that Uber offers are based on dis/ability. If you have a vision impairment, Uber offers voiceover services for their app through iOS and in Android TalkBack, in addition to a wireless braille display option. ​For riders with hearing impairments, the website notes that audio is not needed to run the app and visuals can be adjusted per the user’s device settings, including vibration alerts which they recommend. UberAssist is a service designed to provide additional support to seniors and those with dis/abilities. UberAssist vehicles cannot accommodate motorized or non-folding wheelchairs but they can accommodate folding wheelchairs, folding scooters, and walkers. If you are in need, however, of a large van or vehicle that has access to ramps for motorized or non-folding wheelchairs or scooters you can use the UberWav feature which stands for Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle. Uber also recently added Uber Health where healthcare providers can sign up for the services and help assist in booking a ride to your doctor’s appointment. If you know of someone who is struggling getting to their doctor appointments, I would recommend sharing UberHealth to their provider. Check out additional information on Uber’s accessibility features at https://www.uber.com/us/en/about/accessibility/.

Lyft Accessibility Features

Lyft also provides similar accommodations as well for people with dis/abilities. Like Uber, for riders with hearing impairments, the website also notes that audio is not needed to run the app and visuals can be adjusted per the user’s device settings, including vibration notifications. For people with vision impairments,  Lyft’s website notes that you can use your standard phone accessibility features, but they are currently partnering with the National Federation of the Blind to increase awareness & advocacy to expand transportation options for passengers with vision impairments. One feature they have added is the use of compatibility with VoiceOver in IOS and Google TalkBack.​ I would love to see the future of this partnership and what improvements will be made in the future. For people or young adults with dis/abilities who require a wheelchair accessible vehicle, passengers can enable a service called “Access Mode“. When the Lyft app is in access mode, specific accessible vehicles will be sent to the passenger instead of a standard Lyft vehicle.​ The website does state that this service is not available everywhere but they are in the process of increasing this accessibility feature with new drivers. The website does have lots of additional information here that also discusses options for riders with service animals.

Like most ridesharing companies, both Lyft and Uber will assist those with dis/abilities by meeting them at the front door of your pick-up location, assist in getting in and out of the vehicle, and will accompany the rider to the door of the destination. They will also help load and unload light mobility devices (such as canes, walkers, crutches, and foldable wheelchairs).

Just a reminder to not forget about your young adults with dis/abilities on college campuses. They will most likely need some early 1-1 support, multiple options of transportation, and some general direction if they are new to campus or the community. Be sure that they also check in to the campus accessibility and accommodation office to see what transportation supports are available. If you or someone you know needs support in this area, please do not hesitate to reach out to me anytime and I will be happy to assist you in finding the services that are available to you.

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