Lyft settles with Justice Department over disability lawsuit

Ann Smajstrla
·Contributing Writer

Lyft has settled with the Justice Department in a lawsuit alleging the company discriminated against customers with disabilities. Now, drivers will be required to help fold and stow wheelchairs and walkers for customers. The rideshare company has also been ordered to educate its drivers as well as pay complainants and a $40,000 civil penalty.

The Justice Department began an investigation after a complainant identified as J.H. who uses a collapsible wheelchair reported discrimination from Los Angeles-area Lyft drivers, according to a Justice Department statement. J.H. filed 12 complaints with Lyft between 2015 and 2017 after drivers refused him rides, saying they either could not or would not accommodate his wheelchair. Three other complainants listed in the settlement reported similar experiences.

Lyft will pay various amounts in damages to the complainants, including $30,000 to J.H. It’s been ordered to modify its wheelchair policy to specify that “drivers are required to assist with the stowing of foldable or collapsible mobility devices used by individuals with disabilities, such as wheelchairs, scooters, and walkers.” The company will make a few changes to better educate drivers on the wheelchair policy, like sending quarterly reminders of the policy to drivers and creating a new educational video about the policy. For the next three years, Lyft will give the Justice Department biannual written reports on what it’s doing to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Accessibility of rideshares has been an ongoing concern and the subject of many legal battles. Uber has been sued multiple times for failing to accommodate passengers with disabilities. A 2018 study conducted by the New York Lawyers for Public Interest found that 70 percent of the time, Uber and Lyft failed to provide wheelchair accessible vehicles in New York City.