UberWAV Lets Handicapped Users Hail a Wheelchair-Accessible Van

Chicago joins the limited selection of cities offering the accessible ride sharing service.

Living with a disability
Cole Burston—Toronto Star via Getty Images

People have any number of reasons to be fed up with Uber these days. But one thing it's doing right is making transportation more available to wheelchair users. The Chicago Tribune reports that the UberWAV service will now be available in Chicago. 

UberWAV can be hailed through the app the same way as any other Uber service, and costs the same as regular UberX or single-passenger rides. ("WAV" stands for "wheelchair accessible vehicle.") Up to three additional passengers may ride in the vehicle as well. Previously the service was available only by entering a special code, but it will now be open to all Uber users in Chicago.

Uber's move is not entirely altruistic, though. Last year, the Chicago City Council passed an ordinance requiring ride sharing services to make their fleets more accessible to passengers with disabilities. Uber is also facing lawsuits in Chicago, as well as New York and Washington, D.C., for its lack of accessible transportation services. The company's competitor Lyft already offers similar services in Chicago.

The specialized vehicles equipped with wheelchair ramps are only one part of the equation. UberWAV drivers must also be trained and certified to transport wheelchair passengers safely. "These vehicles are driven by drivers who are certified in WAV best practices and vehicle securement through third parties, such as the Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA), Transit & Paratransit Company (TAPTCO), or the Open Doors Organization," said Uber in a press release. Such training includes proper methods of securing a wheelchair with tie-down straps so that it will not move while the vehicle is in motion.

UberGO, a web site not affiliated with Uber, currently lists 28 cities where UberWAV is available—not including Chicago, which Uber just announced Thursday. It has also been available in Toronto, Ontario, since January 2016. Hopefully, Uber will continue to expand this service to other areas. Providing accessible transportation would certainly help repair Uber's tarnished image.