Westchester Disabled on the Move suing Lyft over lack of wheelchair accessible vehicles

In a statement to News 12, Lyft said it has "a long-standing commitment to maintaining an inclusive and welcoming community."

Emily Young

Jun 27, 2024, 9:52 PM

Updated 24 days ago

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Westchester Disabled On The Move is a not-for-profit that fights for accessibility and equality in public and commercial buildings throughout the county. As it celebrates its 40th anniversary, it is gearing up for the lawsuit of a lifetime.
"It was so cool to just be able to go on the app and see that there was a wheelchair accessible transportation, says Donna Ponessa.
Ponessa says she remembers when she visited Washington, D.C. It was the first and only time she was able to use the Lyft app to order a car.
"I felt so normal. We're so used to being told that, 'you're kind of a nuisance, you're kind of in the way,'" she said.
That's because D.C. is one of nine cities in the country where regulators have required that Lyft offer wheelchair accessible vehicles, known as "waves."
"Everywhere else, 96% of the country, where Lyft serves able-bodied people, Lyft blocks waves service," said Westchester Disabled On The Move's attorney Jeremiah Frei-Pearson.
He says this is the type of discrimination, you don't see anymore.
"You have a multibillion-dollar corporation that has made the decision not to serve a protected category of people," he said.
In Westchester County alone, he estimates at least 11,000 people use a wheelchair.
"My money is just as green as someone else's money," said Ponessa.
"It's frustrating. Something that's so simple for people without disabilities becomes a problem and a barrier to living independently," said Charles Italiano, deputy executive director of Westchester Disabled On The Move.
So Westchester Disabled On The Move has filed a class action lawsuit against the company, with defendants from all over the states.
The lawsuit will begin in federal court in White Plains on July 8.
In a statement to News 12, Lyft said it has "a long-standing commitment to maintaining an inclusive and welcoming community." It went on to say, "We continue to offer access to these types of vehicles in every single market where we are required to do so and are fully compliant with laws and regulations."


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