Minicab-hailing app has trained more than 100 drivers in the capital on its uberASSIST programme By James Titcomb
20 Oct 2015
Uber is launching its service for disabled passengers, uberASSIST, in London.
The minicab-hailing app says more than 100 of its most experienced drivers have signed up to the scheme, which provides additional assistance to passengers with wheelchairs, walking frames and scooters, or blind users.
Passengers who need to use the service enter a code – ASSISTUK – into the promotion screen on Uber’s app, giving them the option to request an trained driver, who has completed a disability equality course from Transport For All and Inclusion London.
Drivers are told that passengers may require assistance and can then contact them ahead of picking them up. Uber pointed to research showing that disabled passengers are more likely to use taxis or minicabs, but are often overcharged.
Uber said the service, which will cost the same as a normal uberX ride, was “an important step towards making our platform even more accessible for all of London’s riders”. It will be available from 3pm on Tuesday, having launched in certain parts of the US last year.
Uber, whose growth in London has sparked widespread protests from the black cab industry, is facing questions over its future in London after Transport for London proposed new restrictions on minicab services.
One of the chief criticisms of the service is that unlike black cabs, regulation does not require its cars to be wheelchair accessible. While the Uber driver’s car of choice – a Toyota Prius – cannot carry a non-foldable wheelchair, Uber said it planned to add “additional fully accessible vehicles” next year.
The company also says it has improved its app for blind and deaf customers.
“uberASSIST is an important step towards making our platform even more accessible for all of London’s riders. We’re always working hard to make sure we serve every part of every community in every city,” Uber’s general manager for the UK, Ireland and Nordics Jo Bertram said.
London black cabs
A common criticism of Uber from black cab drivers is that it does not cater to disabled passengers
“We’ve been working to develop uberASSIST for a number of months and have heard from our charitable partners, Transport for All and Inclusion London, about the difficulties disabled people and people with access needs often face in accessing transport in London.
“Technology and innovation should be starting to change this. That’s why I’m proud that we can now offer disabled riders extra assistance – at exactly the same low price as our existing uberX service. And in the New Year we hope to expand accessibility further by introducing additional wheelchair accessible vehicles to the Uber platform – on top of the hundreds of black cabs already using the Uber app.”
Uber won a significant victory in the High Court last week when a judge said that its app does not violate laws on taximeters, allowing the service to continue as usual.