Ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft have accessible features for drivers, but what about deaf passengers?
Deaf accessibility is an issue across many industries and platforms. In 2015, rideshare company Uber announced it would help reduce accessibility issues for deaf drivers, providing technology to make it easier for drivers with hearing loss to work. These advancements within the Driver app include an option to inform riders that their driver is deaf or hard of hearing. However, while these services have benefited deaf drivers, deaf passengers say they are lacking the accessibility tools they need.
In a recent social media thread, Alexandra Johnson, who has a cochlear implant, posted the following question about accessibility for deaf passengers:
“Does anyone know if Lyft/Uber has any options for inputting that you’re deaf/blind/etc? The only thing I can find so far is wheelchair access in the Lyft app. Would be nice if I could put in that I’m deaf/prefer text communication so drivers know not to call me.”
One of her friends, who has been a ride-share driver for two years, responded by telling her it’s a simple toggle on the apps for drivers. As a rider, he suggested she contact support and have them flag her account. He thought this should be possible via chat or email support.
Johnson said she would try this, but added that it was frustrating that it couldn’t be done directly through the app. She took her question one step further, contacting Lyft on Twitter (@AskLyft.) She received the following reply:
“Hey there! A hard-of-hearing feature is only available for drivers at this time. Hold tight, we do have a rider version in the works! In the meantime, you can add a note for your driver before finalizing your request in the ‘Confirm pickup spot’ screen.”
For the time being, Johnson said she’d just go with that. She posted that she still finds it baffling that from her perspective as a disabled person, no one has considered trying to make these apps/services as accessible as possible from the start. She replied to Lyft and asked if there was an estimate for the rider version roll-out.
Lyft’s response was that there is currently no time frame.
This is what’s confusing about rideshare companies like Lyft and Uber. There are accessible features for deaf drivers. These were implemented at least three years ago, and clearly more progress needs to occur to truly be accessible. Drivers are only half of the equation. What about accessibility for deaf passengers?
Looking at the company’s respective websites, Uber has a page specifically for riders who are deaf. It provides tips for Uber drivers with deaf passengers, including:
Lyft doesn’t have anything on its site about rider accessibility, other than wheelchair access. However, there is a page dedicated to deaf/hard of hearing drivers on their blog. Under the Help section, there’s a page about how to get picked up as a passenger. It says if there are any special instructions for the driver, you have to call. There’s no option to identify as deaf/hard of hearing in the app.
Eileen Lograno, a cochlear implant wearer, loves that Lyft will tell passengers if the driver is deaf/hard of hearing and offers the option of learning basic ASL phrases. However, she has had trouble telling drivers that she is deaf.
“I do not love that there is no accessible feature for deaf/hard of hearing passengers,” she says. “I’m sick of drivers calling me even though it says I’m deaf and to text!!”
David Sugarman, Johnson’s friend who has been a rideshare driver for two years, works for both platforms. He also happens to have hearing issues, which he said is caused by his own negligence, from listening to loud music at festivals without ear protection. Hearing loss is also hereditary in his family, as many relatives are hard of hearing or have delayed auditory responses.
Sugarman says that deaf riders, and those with mobility issues, have thanked him for being accessibility friendly and for offering tips on how to streamline their service.
He says, “in terms of accessibility, Uber wins hands down.”
Lyft did not respond to repeated requests for comment on services for deaf passengers. Uber was not contacted for this story.