The growth of ride-hailing mobile apps such as Uber and Lyft has transformed the way that people move and the opportunities available to them. One traditionally underserved population that has been assisted by these services are the 19 percent of Americans with a disability.
Many people with visual, motor, and cognitive disabilities are unable to safely operate a vehicle, which makes them more reliant on other people for transportation. According to a 2018 study, an estimated 3.6 million Medicaid patients miss their healthcare appointments every year due to a lack of transportation options.
Uber, Lyft, and other ride-hailing services have attempted to fill the transportation gap for people with disabilities, providing on-demand transportation at a price that’s competitive with traditional taxi companies. In order to cater to users with disabilities, ride-hailing companies must make website and mobile application accessibility a priority.
How Ride-Hailing Apps Help People with Disabilities
Uber’s website includes an accessibility statement that includes a commitment to excellent service for all people with disabilities, as well as specific information about programs, policies, and features. During the British local elections in 2017 and 2018, for example, Uber offered free rides to the polls for wheelchair users.
In particular, Uber has taken steps to make its mobile app more accessible to users with disabilities:
- The Uber app is fully compatible with voiceover services on iOS and Android, making it easier for users with visual disabilities to vocalize and understand the contents of the screen.
- Audio is not required to use the Uber app; its functionality can be fully replaced by push notifications and vibrating alerts. After working with the National Association of the Deaf, Uber added several new options for drivers with hearing disabilities. For example, the screen will flash instead of beep to alert drivers of a new trip request. Drivers can also disable the option for riders to call them, preferring to receive text messages instead.
- Uber has launched the UberWAV service alongside its other transportation options. Vehicles in the UberWAV fleet are guaranteed to be wheelchair-accessible.
Despite these initiatives, however, Uber has also been the target of lawsuits and criticism from advocates of disability rights. For example, a lawsuit in New York City claims that only 200 of the 60,000 Uber vehicles in the city are available through UberWAV, constituting discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Meanwhile, Lyft recently announced its partnership with Aira, a tech company that manufactures smart glasses that make use of augmented reality. The glasses pair low-vision users with human assistants who can serve as another pair of eyes, helping them with their daily tasks. Aira agents are now able to request a vehicle from Lyft on behalf of the user and communicate important information about the ride such as the location and estimated price.
The partnership with Aira is not Lyft’s first accessibility initiative. In 2017, Lyft also announced a partnership with the National Federation of the Blind in order to make its mobile app more accessible to users with visual disabilities.
How to Make Mobile Apps Accessible
Making your organization’s mobile app more accessible is a win-win situation for you and your users. While you expand your customer base, your users with disabilities gain more freedom and independence.
Some of the most important guidelines for mobile accessibility are:
- Users should have to zoom as little as possible in order to use the app. However, zooming and magnification should always be available for users who need to enlarge the text.
- Color schemes should be high-contrast in order to distinguish text from background.
- Your app should work with Bluetooth so that users can use assistive technologies such as external keyboards.
- Gestures should be as simple as possible.
- Touch targets should have a minimum size.
For more guidelines on how to make your mobile app accessible to people with disabilities, download the Bureau of Internet Accessibility’s Definitive Checklist for Mobile Accessibility. We also provide mobile accessibility testing services for iOS and Android phones, including a list of high-priority recommendations for you to follow. Contact our accessibility experts today for more information.