Inadequate Accessibility: Why Uber Should be a Public Accommodation Under the Americans with Disabilities Act

Inadequate Accessibility: Why Uber Should be a Public Accommodation Under the Americans with Disabilities Act

67 Am. U. L. Rev. 1947 (2018).

* Editor-in-Chief, American University Law Review, Volume 68; J.D. Candidate, May 2019, American University Washington College of Law; B.B.A., Marketing, 2012, University of Wisconsin-Madison.  I would like to extend my gratitude to the entire American University Law Review staff, especially Cecilia Diedrich, Samantha Primeaux, and Tara Carrier for their tireless work.  I would also like to thank Professor Robert Dinerstein for his invaluable expertise and guidance.  Finally, I am eternally grateful to my family for their unwavering love and support.

This Comment will focus on Uber and its obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). While it may seem logical that Uber should adhere to the same ADA regulations as taxis, the relevant ADA provision only applies to private entities that are primarily engaged in the business of transporting people. To avoid these regulations, Uber asserts that it is primarily a technology company, rather than primarily a transportation company. However, the more expansive approach, consistent with the ADA’s purpose of eliminating discrimination against persons with disabilities, is to classify Uber’s services as public accommodations. While the ADA’s public accommodation provision governs physical spaces such as restaurants, shopping centers, and offices, some jurisdictions have recently decided that web-based entities and services are public accommodations. Thus, even if a court were to accept Uber’s claim that it is primarily a technology company rather than a transportation company, Uber would still be required to adhere to the ADA’s public accommodation provision. This Comment presents and analyzes three rationales for defining Uber as a public accommodation under the ADA: (1) web-based activities are distinct public accommodations, (2) the physical vehicles that Uber operates are places of public accommodation, and (3) Uber is a “travel service” or “other service establishment” as defined in the ADA.