As ridesharing pushes for last-minute passage, critics urge Cuomo to veto bill

As Uber and Lyft ramp up their last-minute efforts to pass insurance legislation to allow for statewide ridesharing programs, the United Spinal Association sent a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo urging him to block any bill that does not mandate wheelchair accessibility.

“This ‘separate but equal’ argument is an affront to wheelchairs users and is inconsistent with the important civil rights agenda that your administration has advanced in New York during your tenure as Governor,” wrote James Weisman, president and CEO of the United Spinal Association. “Other states look to us – and to your administration in particular – as a paragon of equal opportunity and equal access for all. There is no reason why this dynamic should exclude wheelchair accessibility.”

Lyft and Uber drivers operate as independent contractors who use their personal vehicles to transport passengers. Unlike taxi and livery services, the companies do not own the vehicles. Under state insurance law, personal vehiclescannot be used for a business purpose. Currently, the only part of the state where ridesharing services are available is New York City.

Assembly Insurance Committee Chairman Kevin Cahill and state Senate Insurance Committee Chairman Jim Seward have co-sponsored a bill to allow ridesharing companies to expand to the rest of the state. Cuomo has previously said there should be a “statewide regulatory framework” for ridesharing companies.

Uber has argued that Cahill and Seward’s bill is a simple change to the state’s insurance laws and that localities will be able to enforce their own regulations on wheelchair accessibility once the bills are passed. Uber declined to comment.

However, critics argue the state should ensure accessibility.

“With the State Assembly reportedly considering legislation that would allow Uber and other Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) to expand throughout the state I am writing to ask that you make TNC accessibility for wheelchair users a condition of your support,” Weisman said in the letter.

You can read the full letter below:

Uber Letter to Gov Cuomo -- Wheelchair Access