Since launching our ridesharing product uberX, three years ago, more people than ever in underserved communities are getting rides. In fact, 42 percent of our trips in Chicago start or end on the South and West Sides. In a city where the Hispanic community makes up nearly 30 percent of the local population, we offer uberESPANOL to better serve riders who seek Spanish-speaking drivers. Many people with disabilities have also found a welcome alternative to existing transportation options with uberX. All uberX rides are cashless and able to accommodate folding wheelchairs. There are dedicated features for blind and low-vision riders, like VoiceOver iOS technology and wireless braille display compatibility. For deaf and hard-of-hearing driver-partners, the Uber app has additional features that range from flashing trip requests to text-only messaging alerts.
But there is a lot more work to do.
Transportation access in Chicago continues to prove a major challenge for many people with disabilities. Whether it’s getting to a job on time or making it to sports practice, transit options are often limited. And for those who need a wheelchair-accessible vehicle (WAV), these options can be extremely inconvenient, even requiring a day’s advance notice to schedule.
We believe Uber can help meet this challenge and empower people with disabilities with greater freedom to get around.
In the past, Uber has offered WAV options by connecting riders to traditional WAV taxi services. But that’s not good enough.
So this month, we’ll be launching uberACCESS in Chicago, two new products to better serve riders with disabilities:
- uberWAV will give Chicagoans the option to request a wheelchair accessible vehicle. All vehicles will be equipped with side-entry ramps.
- uberASSIST is an uberX product designed for Chicagoans who may need additional assistance including people with disabilities and older adults.
How will we do this? Well, for the better part of the last year, we’ve been working on that. We’ll start off partnering with local companies who own WAV vehicles to match drivers to riders in the area. We’ll also be teaming up with some rental companies to give those who may need to rent a car the ability to use Uber to provide WAV rides. And of course, we’ll be recruiting drivers with their own WAV vehicles to use the platform just as other driver-partners do.
Every driver who uses uberWAV or uberASSIST will undergo proper education on how to best meet riders’ needs, whether it’s door to curbside assistance, vision impairment or just a helping hand. Additionally WAV driver-partners will be trained on the use of WAV vehicles.
Over time, our goal is to make these options as reliable and convenient as any product on the Uber platform. It won’t happen overnight, but we’ll get there by working with organizations in the community and driver-partners who are committed to empowering people with a better, more independent life.
Nearly one year ago, we launched uberACCESS in Austin, Texas, and drove request times for WAV vehicles down to an average of 14 minutes. We can’t wait to see what we can accomplish together in Chicago.