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Document Type

Article

Abstract

Within the past year, individual plaintiffs and disability rights organizations have initiated a number of lawsuits against Uber, and similar companies like Lyft, alleging violations of Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (Title III). In each of these cases, the plaintiffs’ success turns on affirmatively answering one significant threshold question: Whether Uber, or a similar entity, falls within the scope of Title III. Traditional taxi companies fall squarely within the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990’s (ADA) coverage under 42 U.S.C. § 12184 (§ 12184), which governs private companies that provide transportation services. Given the similarities between the functions of TNCs and taxi companies, holding TNCs to the same standard seems like an easy decision. However, the TNCs currently facing Title III suits do not agree with that premise.

Although Uber and Lyft, the two primary targets of Title III litigation, both have nondiscrimination policies in place, they claim that as “technology companies” rather than “transportation companies,” their operations fall outside the scope of Title III regulations. To make this argument, Uber and Lyft contend that their primary function is not providing rides, but instead providing a platform through which drivers and riders can connect. Federal courts have not yet resolved this issue or provided clear guidance on what obligations TNCs may have under the ADA.

This Note seeks to provide that guidance and explore whether the laws adequately ensure that people with disabilities receive the benefits of this new brand of transportation. Part I of this Note outlines the Title III provisions most applicable to TNCs, and provides a synopsis of discrimination suits brought against these companies under Title III. Part II assesses the viability of riders with disabilities’ Title III claims by analyzing whether TNCs qualify as private providers of public transportation or public accommodations under the ADA and predicts what obligations TNCs would have under either definition. Finally, Part III contends that TNCs should be treated as transportation providers with obligations similar to those imposed on taxi services