Plans to legalize Uber raise accessibility concerns

The City of Ottawa's plan to legalize ride-hailing companies should require Uber to make its services accessible, a representative from the Council for Canadians with Disabilities said ahead of a presentation at City Hall.

City plans to negotiate voluntary per-trip surcharge to put towards accessibility fund

Bob Brown, who gets around with the help of a wheelchair, is concerned Ottawa's embrace of ride-for-hire companies will leave the city's fleet of accessible taxis to rust. (CBC)

The City of Ottawa's plan to legalize Uber could park the local fleet of accessible taxis as traditional companies are driven out of business, a representative from the Council for Canadians with Disabilities told CBC News.

"The taxi industry will probably be decimated, which is what's happening in the States. There is a lot of history showing accessible cabs are just being parked," said Bob Brown.

Brown plans to make a presentation on Thursday as a city committee reviews a report recommending the legalization of app-based ride-hailing services, such as Uber.

The city currently has nearly 200 accessible cabs.

Uber recently launched UberAssist in Ottawa, a door-to-door service in which drivers help riders enter and exit their vehicles. But Uber doesn't currently have wheelchair-accessible vehicles in Ottawa, which Brown said cuts people like himself, who travels in wheelchair, off from reduced fares. 

"Uber is coming in saying it's a discount service, you know, cheaper, so a person with disabilities would not be afforded the same opportunity to take advantage of the discounted service," he said.

'No intention of sliding backwards'

CounDiane Deans, head of the committee overseeing the proposed taxi regulation changes, said the report includes a plan to negotiate a voluntary per-trip surcharge to put towards an accessibility fund.

"We have no intention of sliding backwards, whatsoever," Deans said.

The funds would be allocated based on a yet-to-be determined basis developed with the help of accessibility advocates.

"Would it be some sort of chit system? Would it be more vehicles for Para Transpo? Whatever it would be, we would have a pool of money to ensure we are providing greater accessibility service," she said.

Brown said Para Transpo is not comparable to the convenience of a taxi because of the need to book trips a day in advance.

The report also recommends petitioning the province for authority to create a mandatory accessibility levy for private cabs.


  • A previous version of this story incorrectly reported that UberAssist does not operate in Ottawa. UberAssist launched in Ottawa at the end of March. But Uber says that there are currently no wheelchair-accessible Ubers in Ottawa.
    Apr 05, 2016 9:45 AM ET