A Brighton and Hove disability charity has voiced concerns about how Uber operating in the city might negatively impact wheelchair users.
Among concerns raised by existing taxi companies was the issue of whether Uber would have to abide by the same rules as everyone else, which include ensuring a certain proportion of wheelchair accessible vehicles.
The Fed has now published an open letter on its website, saying that while it welcomes the prospect of more affordable travel, it is seeking reassurance from Uber about taxi accessibility and driver training.
And it points to issues with how the company operates in London, and urges them to “learn lessons” from the capital.
The letter said: “For disabled people in Brighton and Hove taxis can be an essential way to remain independent, being a vital mode of transport for connecting to services, shops, friends and healthcare.
We cautiously welcome the news that Uber has been granted a year long licence by Brighton and Hove City Council if it provides more affordable travel options within the city. However, we are seeking reassurance about the accessibility of Uber’s vehicles and the training of their drivers.
“In London, where Uber has been operating since 2012, their provision of [wheelchair] accessible vehicles has remained extremely poor – preventing a sizeable number of Londoners from using their service.
“We note that Uber’s licence to operate in Brighton and Hove has been granted under the same Blue Book rules that currently govern other taxi services in the city. These rules require “all new or replacement multi seater vehicles (vehicles capable of carrying 5 to 8 passengers)” to be wheelchair accessible.
“Since the Uber fleet will be entirely new to Brighton and Hove, it will be important to find out if their multi seater vehicles will also be required to be fully accessible to wheelchairs.
“There may be a danger that if Uber are successful, there would be less Hackney taxis on the road, which would cause a lot of problems for disabled people.”
It also notes that the company’s Uberassist service, which allows disabled passengers to request a disability awareness trained driver, was only introduced in London this month, three years after it started operating there.
It added: “We hope that at the very least Uber will make a commitment to deploy Uberassist and train its drivers, from the very start. Indeed, every licensed taxi driver, whether driving for Uber or another company, should receive basic disability awareness training.
“We hope that both Uber and the local council will learn lessons from the company’s performance in London and make the launch of this new service in Brighton and Hove genuinely accessible for the whole community.”
A spokeswoman for Uber said: “As with every city we operate in, we will abide by all private-hire regulations on accessibility. When drivers join the Uber platform, they are advised on disability awareness and of their responsibility to serve all passengers without any form of discrimination.”