Here at the LightHouse, we want to help focus the conversation on apps and accessibility. The logical place to start, it seems, is with transportation network companies (TNCs), which use apps with great success to provide new transportation options.
When you need a ride, who do you call?
The blind community has lots of strong feelings, both positive and negative, when it comes to “ridesharing” apps. These apps, such as Uber, Lyft, Sidecar, FlyWheel, and others, have come to all but replace the old taxi system with a form of transportation that’s cheaper, faster, and, if you know how to work a smartphone, far more convenient than calling a cab. Members of the blindness community have proven to be some of these technologies’ earliest adopters and biggest fans; some of us even attend public hearings to speak in favor of the startups that inhabit our city and make it easier for us to get around.
But even with the best innovations come new roadblocks. In particular, some rideshare companies have not done a very good job of educating their drivers (most-often independent contractors) about the stipulations of the ADA, which makes it illegal for places of public accommodation to deny someone service based on a disability. Many specific issues are going to court, but for every case that ends up in the courts, we know there are dozens more stories that are untold.
This is our call to the blindness community, both in San Francisco and internationally, to weigh in with your feedback about specific rideshare services — not to comment on the recent Uber case per se, but to tell us personally what you’ve experienced as a visually impaired person, using any and all of the available options now on the market.
Which app has the biggest problems? Which ones are doing everything right? Did you ever feel discriminated against? Perhaps these apps have only changed your life for the better — we want to hear about that, too!
To share your story, good or bad, you can comment, send us a message on Facebook, Tweet at us, or even email our community manager directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. This is about ironing out the rough edges, celebrating what already works, and making sure that we will live in a future where we can expect all the same rights and enjoyments as the rest of the public. We’re looking forward to hearing your feedback!