This could be good news for people with disabilities who live in the nation's capital.
12/14/2015 07:09 pm ET
Uber announced last week that it added a new option to its app, letting people order rides from wheelchair-accessible vans in Washington, D.C.
The car-hailing service will not buy the wheelchair-friendly vehicles. Rather, it will tap into an existing pool of taxi drivers who rent and operate specialized vans in the nation's capital, according to WAMU, a local public radio station which has closely covered the company's record on accessibility. At least one of these vehicles is already available to use via the Uber app.
"While there is more that needs to be done to expand transportation options for riders in DC requiring wheelchair accessible vehicles, we—along with advocates for people with disabilities—believe our wheelchair accessible vehicles option is a step in the right direction," wrote Anne Hussey, a marketing manager for Uber D.C., in a blog post published Dec. 11.
To call a wheelchair-accessible taxi through Uber, just open the app, choose the UberTaxi option, and then enter the promo code "wheelchairdc." After the app registers the code, it will show a wheelchair option and the location of available vehicles nearby.
When I tested this new option on Monday in D.C., I found one van, seven minutes away from my location in Georgetown.
DCist was the first outlet to report Uber's news on Friday, including the detail that D'Arcee Neal, a disability rights activist employed by the Department of the Interior, was the first consumer to use the new option.
Accessibility advocates hailed the news as an improvement.
"Access to Uber’s service for the District’s residents and visitors with disabilities is long overdue," Carol Tyson, the director of disability policy at the United Spinal Association, told The Huffington Post. "Transportation is a civil right and people with disabilities should not be an afterthought."
It's not clear, however, whether the total number of wheelchair-accessible taxis on D.C. streets will increase as a result of Uber's new initiative.
That's perhaps the key question for Americans with disabilities as Uber and other on-demand services become a bigger part of transportation systems, from commuting to carpooling: If the taxi companies that operate city cab fleets go under as a result of increased competition, will cities work with Uber to maintain accessible options?
Tyson called on Uber and its competitors to work toward increasing the total number of wheelchair-accessible vehicles in D.C. and other cities, particularly at peak commuting hours.
"We know that demand for accessible taxi service in the District far exceeds supply," she argued. Speaking about Transport D.C. -- the city's program for alternative, accessible for-hire transport to residents with disabilities -- Tyson said that funding was "falling short of demand" and that each month "the number of Transport D.C. rides has increased."
The D.C. Taxi Cab Commission told HuffPost that there are currently 153 wheelchair-accessible taxis servicing D.C. Back in November, when there were only 141, WAMU reported that approximately one-quarter of these cabs weren't being used.
Presumably, that's because of the higher cost of rental for drivers over traditional sedans. The D.C. Taxicab Commission told The Huffington Post that it has awarded 90 grants to offset the costs of rentals in 2015, along with free sensitivity and operation training.
Uber did not immediately respond when HuffPost asked for the total number of wheelchair-accessible vehicles people could find via the Uber app in D.C. and other U.S. cities.
NBC 7 News: Senior citizen, disabled son can't afford motel rent after eviction from Peninsula apartment
By Vic Lee
Friday, November 27, 2015 09:59PM
SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KGO) --
For a senior citizen and her son who takes care of her, their future may be either a shelter or the streets. It's a hard reality for many who live on the peninsula where rents have skyrocketed.
Ramona Low is 80 years old and her caretaker-son Steve Litton live in a small motel room and it is their only salvation from homelessness.
"We're fearful that we're going to be thrown out on the street. Absolutely," Litton said.
Low is crippled with severe arthritis and Litton also has disabilities. The two were evicted from an apartment they had lived in for two decades, after a dispute with their landlord. Low used to work for the city of San Francisco. They live on her modest pension and social security disability, but it is not enough to find an apartment on the peninsula.
"I think it's because of the booming economy. You have to have three times the rent just to get into any commercial housing," Litton said.
Now, they're two weeks behind in their motel rent. They've reached out for help from social service agencies with little success. Their church, they say, is their savior.
"Every time we go to Bible study on Wednesday, somebody puts something in my hand and says 'Buy food,'" Low said.
That's how they can eat. Their food in the tiny motel refrigerator is mostly donated, just like their Thanksgiving dinner this year. The Stulbarg Family from Redwood City learned about their plight and brought dinner to them.
"We were very fortunate and blessed to all be together," Andy Stulbarg said. "And I decided I wanted to try to do something for this family."
"I worked hard all my life. I'd like to live in my own little apartment. That's all I want," Low said.
It is a wish that's hard to fulfill when the average rent for a one bedroom on the peninsula is more than $2,500 a month.
Daily Journal Guest Perspective
OP-ED: Making transportation affordable to all
November 25, 2015, 05:00 AM By Vincent Merola
With increased operational costs and structural deficits to address, SamTrans’ Board of Directors voted unanimously last month to raise fares for its fixed route and paratransit bus rides.
These fare raises will have a significant long-lasting negative effect on people with disabilities, especially those who rely on and frequently use SamTrans services. The vast majority of these riders are on fixed incomes, making even slight increases painful to bear. Adult fares will increase by 25 cents to $2.25 in 2016 and another 25 cent increase will be added in 2019. Nobody really likes it when the costs of things go up. I fall under this category. Having recently moved to the Bay Area by way of Connecticut — a place with virtually zero public transportation — I have come to use SamTrans quite frequently. I enjoy hopping on the ECR in Redwood City to get to and from work. The public transit system in San Mateo County serves me well. I’m able, and therefore willing to pay the increased fares.
SamTrans Board of Directors also voted to raise fares for its RediWheels/RediCoast paratransit services. On its website, SamTrans states, “paratransit rides are for persons with disabilities who cannot independently use SamTrans bus service.” It goes on to state that under the Americans with Disability Act, transit agencies are required to provide paratransit service. The law requires transit agencies to provide paratransit service comparable to the level of fixed-route service and that they can charge no more than twice a fixed-route fare. Presently, the one-way fare for paratransit in the county is $3.75. The Board of Directors voted to increase that by 50 cents to $4.25 in 2016 and another 50 cents in 2019, bringing the total one-way fare to $4.75 by that time. Both of these increases will bring the fare just under the maximum allowable limit under the ADA.
There is something we can do to alleviate these pressures. After receiving public input, SamTrans (thankfully) decided to keep the paratransit Lifeline fare at its current rate of $1.75. If you are unfamiliar with this SamTrans program, that might be due to the fact that it’s not easy to find on its website. A search for the term “Lifeline” at samtrans.com produces five seemingly unrelated results. One would need the Paratransit Rider’s Guide to understand the program. Here, the guide states that only people on Supplemental Security Income, General Assistance or Medi-Cal may be eligible for the Lifeline reduced fare program. This criterion simply does not go far enough to help the disability community. It needs to be expanded to include other low income riders.
Social Security Disability Insurance and Social Security retirement have average monthly payments of $1,146 and $1,294, respectively. For a single-person household, that’s roughly 125 percent of the federal poverty level. Any rational person would consider those numbers to be low income, yet these recipients would not be eligible for the Lifeline service.
In a county with such a high cost of living, people on fixed incomes are often forced to make every penny count. At our center, we already hear from people on fixed incomes not able to afford the cost of transportation to senior centers or to visit friends and family. We even hear from people on fixed incomes forced to make the choice between purchasing food or medicine. When the cost of RediWheels/RediCoast rides goes up next year and then again in 2019, these consumers will have even more tough decisions to make. By then, a regular round trip paratransit fare will be a whopping $9.50.
The fixed route fare increase will not prohibit me from getting to work or from visiting friends for dinner and drinks. You see, I am not on a fixed income and I’m able to pay the added 25 cents. But for San Mateo County residents with disabilities on fixed incomes, a $9.50 ride to see family, visit a doctor or to pick up medication is an unaffordable luxury.
SamTrans needs to promote the Lifeline program better and it needs to expand the program’s eligibility to include more low-income riders.
Vincent Merola is the systems change coordinator at the Center for Independence of Individuals with Disabilities — an Independent Living Center located in San Mateo.
Today's Senior Showcase
Resources and Services from all of San Mateo County - Over 40 Exhibitors
Friday, Nov. 20
9am - 1pm
Foster City Recreation Center
650 Shell Blvd., Foster City
Theme - Inclusion matters: access and empowerment for people of all abilities
Read more about this fascinating day here: http://www.un.org/disabilities/default.asp?id=1637#how
The 2015 Transition to Independence Fair was a huge success this year. Thank you to all of the participants. Run over to www.transitionfair.org to see some more of the details
- ADA Consult & Training
- Assistive Technology
- Counseling & Peer Support
- Housing Accessability Modification
- Independent Living Skills
- Information & Referral
- Independent Living Planning & Support
- Mental Health
- Personal Assistance Program
- Transitioning to the Community
- Systems Change Advocacy
- Work Incentive Planning Assistance >
- Youth Services >
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San Mateo, CA 94404