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Driven Right to Court

Uber and Lyft among Austin businesses sued by civil rights group

Lyft car mustang
Lyft is just one of dozens of locally-operating businesses being sued by a civil rights group. Lyft/Facebook

KVUE — Twenty-four years ago the American with Disabilities Act became law, but many Austinites say they're still having trouble getting equal treatment. So they're taking those they call the worst offenders to court.

For David Wittie, who uses a wheelchair, calling a cab doesn't mean he'll get a ride. "I've called many cabs in the past the typical response is we are still looking for a cab, and if I call back an hour later we are still looking for a wheelchair accessible cab Mr. Wittie," he said.

Now Wittie, along with the Texas Civil Rights Project and ADAPT of Texas are suing Austin's Yellow Cab. It's just one of the businesses the groups say are not abiding by the Americans With Disabilities Act.

"Unfortunately, 24 years after the passage of the ADA the struggle continues for accessibility for the community of persons with disabilities," said Attorney Joseph Berra with the Texas Civil Rights Project.

Thirty lawsuits have been filed across the state, 10 of them against Austin businesses including Yellow Cab, the Live/Work 1305 Lofts on East 6th, the Austin Club on 9th, a Pizza Hut and La Michoacana Meat Market, both on Riverside Drive. Rio Dayclub and Nightclub is being sued because it's rooftop pool isn't handicapped-accessible.

Uber and Lyft, two transportation network companies that recently launched in Austin, are also facing ADA lawsuits.

Jennifer McPhail has spent her life in a wheelchair, and says she's tried to use Lyft's services many times, but can never be picked up. "They don't have any accessible equipment for me to ride in and they don't have plans to make it accessible," she said. "I hate going to court, but I'll do it because I know it's the right thing to do and it's going to make other people's lives better not just my own."

Lyft responded with this statement:

"Lyft aims to accommodate anyone in the community who needs a ride, and many disabled individuals, who were previously undeserved by existing transportation options, now actively use and rely on Lyft as a reliable, safe and affordable way to get around."

After the press conference, and 38 minutes after Wittie called for a Yellow Cab, one finally arrived. The driver says there's not many wheelchair-accessible cabs like his in Austin, but believes there should be more.

"They're doing a lot but it's not enough, said cab driver Wilson Ihonvbere. "I don't see why a wheelchair would be out there for 10 minutes, 40 minutes waiting for a cab."

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To read the full story and to see the video, head to KVUE.

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