Although rideshare giants Uber and Lyft have long claimed they are exempt from the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Massachusetts is the first state to draft legislation that requires these companies to provide comparable service to passengers who have a disability. Signed into law in August 2016, the exact details of it are uncertain, as the specific regulations have to be drafted by the Department of Public Utilities (DPU).
There are however several key access provisions in the law. First and foremost, the law prohibits rideshare companies from charging disabled passengers higher fares or adding a surcharge to the bill. The companies must also provide accessible vehicles everywhere they operate in the state; and new companies cannot get a license until they demonstrate that they have an oversight process in place to accommodate all passengers.
Additionally, the law calls for the establishment of a task force to investigate the possibility of starting a Massachusetts Accessible Transportation Fund, that would be funded with fines collected from rideshare companies that do not provide sufficient accessible service. It will be up to the DPU to define what constitutes sufficient accessible service, and what types of penalties can be levied.
The new law is seen as a major victory for disability rights advocates, and it’s even hoped that rideshare companies can also provide paratransit services, once they become fully compliant of the new access regulations.