Unethical Quote Of The Day: Valerie Joseph, Wheelchair-Bound Uber User And Class Action Litigant

“I feel frustrated because I have to plan my day.I can’t do things on a whim. I have to plan it days in advance.”

Valerie Joseph, litigant in  class-action lawsuit accusing Uber of discriminating against New York City riders with disabilities by providing inadequate access to wheelchair-accessible cars .

Could there possibly be a better quote to exemplify the entitled mentality of so many Americans, and the unethical values they have somehow extracted from our political culture?

Yes, Valerie, you are handicapped. I’m sorry about that, but I’m not responsible for it. Nor are you entitled to make me, and businesses, and the government pay to ensure that society can mitigate every inconvenience created by your misfortune. You do not have the luxury of doing things “on a whim.” Neither do single mothers. Neither do small business entrepreneurs who have substantial debt. It’s your life, deal with it. I also have to plan my days because of circumstances beyond my control. It’s called adulthood. Grow the hell up.

The lawsuit Valerie champions, filed in State Supreme Court in Manhattan by the non-profit Disability Rights Advocates is a classic. It is seeking to risk putting Uber out of business and remove its lower-cost transportation options for the vast, vast majority of the public by insisting on expensive retrofitting of the company’s cars that would benefit a tiny minority.

The Taxis for All Campaign filed a similar discrimination lawsuit over yellow taxis, virtual legal extortion that resulted in a settlement requiring half of all yellow taxis to be wheelchair accessible by 2020. Thus the litigants in the Uber suit already have an acceptable option: call a cab.  There are now 655 wheelchair accessible taxis in the New York city area.  I’d love to see statistics on how often they are used by the passengers they are designed to serve.  My guess: not that often. As much as anything else, this is an interest group power-play. It is discrimination, they insist,  if handicapped passengers have to wait longer than non-handicapped. New York’s Taxi and Limousine Commission has proposed broad new requirements for wheelchair-accessible service for the entire for-hire industry including Uber and the other ride-hail companies. Naturally: they want to put ride-sharing companies out of business, and this could do it.

Government has a legitimate interest in making basic public accommodations reasonably and sufficiently accessible to citizens with handicaps, to the extent this is possible and financially feasible without reducing reasonable access for the non-handicapped majority, or putting companies out of business that can’t reasonably be expected to make expensive mandated adjustments. The government does not have an obligation to spend taxpayer dollars and to bully businesses so the handicapped can avoid all of  the inconveniences attendant to their misfortune. Nor is it the government’s function to ensure that handicapped citizens don’t have to plan their days.

The fact that anyone would believe otherwise demonstrates how detached from common sense and the basic national value of personal responsibly our culture has become.

 

 

17 Comments

Filed under U.S. Society

17 responses to “Unethical Quote Of The Day: Valerie Joseph, Wheelchair-Bound Uber User And Class Action Litigant

  1. JP

    How I see this story developing:

    Valerie wants to use Uber instead of other options.

    Due to the nature of Uber’s business model, they cannot financial support wide spread options for the handicapped.

    Valerie complains.

    Law forces to Uber to comply.

    Uber goes under and other cheaper options go under.

    100s are out of work or ways to make extra cash.

    New York’s Taxi and Limousine owns a monopoly and with no competition, prices soar causing people to continue to pay ridiculous fairs.

    The city spends a ton of money for upkeep for vehicles and parts and, for the most part, will not be regularly used.
    Valerie option never changed and now she will just have to pay more for it.

    Got to love the free (regulated) market.

    • But it’ll be fair, darn it!

      I wish people didn’t think economics was some sort of sophist discipline, because then they’d see exactly what you point out, and it would be obvious to them. All it takes is a basic adult understanding of cause and effect, and a mildly advanced grasp of object permanence. The most important concepts don’t even require any math! The math is all in the finance section, which is mostly governed by rules people semi-arbitrarily made up anyway. But I digress.

      Why do all of these “equality” movements seek to distort the free market with laws (and disregard any side-effects, because “it’s the right thing to do”), when that’s more expensive (and ultimately counterproductive, as you point out) than to just establish a few dozen handicapped-accessible vehicles reserved solely for that purpose?

      Heck, you could just buy each handicapped person a car they can drive. I hesitated to say that, because it’s New York City, and parking is hard to find, when I realized that handicapped parking spaces are already prevalent in most public places. Or you could give people free passes to a parking garage (which has handicapped spaces) and they can go a few blocks by themselves. It’s much easier to outfit each handicapped individual with their own assistance than to replace all the stairs in the world with ramps. I do wonder what’s wrong with the subway, though…
      (This harks back to my point from earlier about how it’s a terrible idea to distribute subsidized healthcare via insurance companies, which interferes with their role as insurance companies.)

      • Probably be cheaper to retrofit each person with an exoskeleton suit controlled with brainwaves and powered by dwarf-star metal. (But only cheaper because it’s NYC. The same economics don’t work out in Boston.)

      • Don’t be so logical, Poddy. Do you want to put untold thousands of bureaucrats and lawyers out of work… for the sake of a few icky, Trump voting amateur cabbies? Shame on you!

        • Good gracious, you’re right! We can’t let government jobs be jeopardized for the benefit of the private sector working class! What was I thinking?

          Hah. Now that you bring it up, I realize some people out there are probably actually thinking along those lines, which is a bit scary.

  2. Mark

    Next time you stay in a hotel with a pool, ask the management when was the last time the handicap lift was used. Most of the ones I’ve seen were rotting away from lack of use and chlorine.

  3. Alex

    I have a love/hate relationship with the ADA. Years ago I used to work in accessibility software (i was doing speech recognition, but my team also owned Narrator, the included screen reader for Windows). For any sufficiently sized company that provided computers to their employees, they could be required to set up an “approved” screen reader for any user requiring it. The certification criteria was a pain in the neck, included hundreds of items and some of the requirements required technical solutions that were not – and could not be – officially supported. This made it pretty much impossible for us to certify Narrator, so one of our primary scenarios was that user would be able to download and install the market leader screen reader (Jaws).
    This software currently goes for $1,100 for a business license. So if you are providing a computer to a blind user, you can at least add that to the price tag by default (or risk being sued, fined, and publicly shamed). Also, you’re supposed to have it already installed and configured, so you should add the support costs, which will be another couple hundred dollars unless you have your own IT department.
    I’ve seen people using varied screen readers. I’ve seen the usability improvements over the years. The current free options are on par with the commercially top-of-the-shelf options a couple of versions back. It is good that blind users have the option and are provided with reasonable accommodations (emphasis on reasonable), and they can be very productive given the tools (one of the best QA people I worked with was blind and was perfectly competent with a cleanly installed computer – he could also do magic given a braille reader pad, price tag $4,000, but it was worth that for the productivity increase). Using a well-intentioned law to beat businesses into submission only increases skepticism towards the options being forced.

  4. Ash

    > The lawsuit Valerie champions, filed in State Supreme Court in Manhattan by the non-profit Disability Rights Advocates is a classic. It is seeking to risk putting Uber out of business and remove its lower-cost transportation options for the vast, vast majority of the public by insisting on expensive retrofitting of the company’s cars that would benefit a tiny minority.

    Apologies, but by referring to “the company’s cars” you are demonstrating ignorance in how Uber operates. Uber has zero “cars” and you should be more precise in what Uber would need to do.

    > The government does not have an obligation to spend taxpayer dollars and to bully businesses so the handicapped can avoid all of the inconveniences attendant to their misfortune.

    Uber is operating intentionally in a way to put taxis, buses, and paratransit out of business, or take over the majority of the users of those services. And City governments are cooperating with Uber to do just that. That makes Joseph’s demands quite reasonable.

    Uber X prices vastly below taxis in order to put taxis out of business.

    Proof: Do riders say their taxi was better than their Uber X? No, riders say, Ubers are newer, arrive to them faster, and drivers are nicer. If Uber X is providing a better service and giving the riders more value than taxis, why, seven years after it began, is it still pricing so much below taxis?

    Uber Pool is priced below buses to put buses at risk. Uber and Lyft price pool below buses and then make deals with city councils to provide transit services in lieu of having the cities fund buses or fund paratransit.

    Uber and Lyft have even discussed with cities using Uber and Lyft as alternatives for ambulances and paratransit.

    Since Uber’s clear goal is to take over the customers of taxis, buses and paratransit, and they price accordingly, and we have seen that with Uber that taxis, buses and paratransit are threatened, then it is completely justified for Valerie Joseph to demand of the cities just how they intend for the disabled to transit their city, and completely ethical for Valerie Joseph to use the ADA to do so.

    What is completely unethical is the way Uber intentionally misclassifes drivers as independent contractors when they are nothing of the sort and pays drivers and forces drivers to pay for Uber’s daily cost of doing business, as well as Uber’s marketing and promotional campaigns.

    What is completely unethical is the way Uber breaks laws and intentionally avoids and blacklists regulators and officials.

    What is completely unethical is the way Uber avoids paying taxes on its rides.

    What is completely unethical is the way Uber has avoided fingerprinting and background checks on its drivers resulting in many drivers committing robberies and assaults including rapes of its riders.

    What is completely unethical is the way Uber avoids protecting its drivers by failing to deploy in vehicle recording, or in vehicle “panic” buttons alerting Uber to ongoing current emergency situations needing human monitoring, tracking, and possible intervention.

    What is completely unethical is the way Uber allows drivers to drive more than 12 hours per day, jeopardizing drivers, riders, other drivers in other cars, and pedestrians.

    What is completely unethical is the way Uber in Austin and Houston and in states around the US are lobbying state legislators to overturn laws in cities that were voted on and approved by city voters intended to stop the most egregious harms done by Uber.

    What is completely unethical are the additions to pollution and traffic caused by idle Uber drivers, driving around, seeking riders. Those are costs paid for by all taxpayers.

    I could go on, there’s far more.

    • Well, Ash, I’m suspending you for a month for being an ass. I am not ignorant of how Uber works, you are. And putting “apologies’ before an insult doesn’t avoid the proper punishment.

      Before being an ass and smugly spouting off, you have an obligation to read the links, which in this case was bolstered by the graphic: see “Uber” on that photo, dim-wit? From the article: “While Uber offers wheelchair-accessible cars through its UberWAV service, the lawsuit claims that these special cars, which typically have lifts and ramps for mobility devices.”

      I would also point out, though it isn’t necessary, that referring to the cars driven by Uber’s drivers as “Uber’s cars” is not inaccurate. They don’t “own” the drivers either, buts since both are working under Uber’s operations and name, “Uber’s cars” does not suggest ignorance. Your nit-picking, however, suggests “jerk.”

      This paragraph, while not sanctionable lazy and rude like your offending one, is also legally ignorant and agenda-driven:

      “Since Uber’s clear goal is to take over the customers of taxis, buses and paratransit, and they price accordingly, and we have seen that with Uber that taxis, buses and paratransit are threatened, then it is completely justified for Valerie Joseph to demand of the cities just how they intend for the disabled to transit their city, and completely ethical for Valerie Joseph to use the ADA to do so.”

      It is objectively unreasonable to require that Uber drivers outfit their own cars—at Uber expense—so one handicapped rider in a blue moon can use it, when other alternatives exist. Nor is a lawsuit designed as a preemptive strike against conduct other than what the lawsuit alleges a valid or ethical use of process.

      I don’t like a lot about Uber either, but that too is irrelevant. See the quote, Ash? Read the post? Now, writing an anti-Uber screed that is irrelevant to the post would usually pass muster: it’s fine to raise other ethics issues in the comments. It is NOT fine to begin by misrepresenting my post. Meanwhile, your entire screed is ethically inert, making the time worn, “They deserve it” rationalization.” That won’t fly. If and when you come back on or after August 20, make sure you stick to ethical arguments, and also have your facts straight before you attack mine

      • Joe Gagliardi

        Great post Jack. I came to the comments to see if anyone went off on Uber (likely my least favorite corporate entity operating right now) and sadly, we got a smug dissertation rather than calmly making salient points.

        Uber using shady tactics to undermine an outdated (and incredibly price-fixed) business model is actually a very interesting debate. This post was likely not the place for it. The lawsuit is frivolous, the article and this post illustrate that.

        I would love to hear your thoughts on Uber as a whole and not just the CEO Travis Kalanick. Especially would be interested to hear about their usage of what amounts to payday loans to their drivers in exchange for cars.

        And by the way, that would indeed mean that Uber DOES have cars (they end up repoing a lot of them) so the above semantics from Ash are all for naught.

  5. I’m glad I’m not the only one who has contempt for envy-responsive homunculi deciding on principle that they’re entitled to do everything anyone else can without putting in any extra effort. (Arguably everyone else could be declared emotionally stunted by being used to putting little effort into most things, but that’s a slightly different discussion.) Next I’m assuming all passenger vehicles will have to be outfitted with life support so that deathly ill people can just pop over to the dance club whenever they feel like it. Maybe the art museum will have to hire dozens of art experts on retainer just in case a club for blind people visits and they all decide to split up and ask what different paintings look like? That’s where this mentality is heading.

  6. I’d like to see EC or ZS, or Tex take a stab at dissecting the anomaly of disabled getting around the city in the 80s (manual push, collapsible wheelchair) which means they could load themselves into any car and the wheelchair could be collapsed and placed in a trunk and how that evolved to these monstrous electric beasts that have to be loaded whole stock with the passenger intact. Sure, there will always be the special cases where certain disabled have to use such elaborate devices, but there are others, I think, that choose a device that is more elaborate than necessary and leads to otherwise reasonable accommodations becoming inadequate.

    My main question then is this: Is it unethical for a person who could use a collapsible manual wheelchair to utilize a behemoth electric chair and consume the limited resources of wheelchair accessible vans that others simply must require because their condition is more dire?

    (My instinct is telling me it’s not unethical, but I wanted to hear some viewpoints on it.)

    • Pennagain

      Sure, there will always be the special cases where certain disabled have to use such elaborate devices,
      Tim:
      “The mission of ‘My’ Paratransit is to provide van and taxi services to people with disabilities, unable to independently use public transit due to a disability or disabling health condition. ‘my’ Paratransit provides complimentary paratransit services for the ‘my’MTA in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) . . . .
      ‘My’ Paratransit also provides premium paratransit services not required by the ADA: Paratransit Taxi, ‘My’MTA Group Van, DAAS Group Van, DAAS Shopping Shuttle, and Shop-a-Round.

      ‘My’ Paratransit performs about 800,000 passenger trips annually [for a city of about 800,000]. Two-thirds of all trips are provided by our van operated services. The remaining third of our trips are provided by taxicabs*. All vans used to provide ‘My’ Paratransit services are wheelchair accessible. Additionally, of ‘My’ taxicabs are ramp equipped and able to accommodate wheelchair passengers who are unable to transfer out of a wheelchair . . . .”
      [brackets mine]

      *by contract with a taxi company (not yellow) that is frequently also contracted with hospitals, clinics, and nursing homes because its drivers are particularly safe, patient and kind with the ill, the injured, and the elderly.

    • After realizing I didn’t have enough information to know to what extent I could criticize the choice, I Googled the question. It seems manual chairs have enough of their own disadvantages (such as not being able to carry things with your arms while moving) that it is a real decision for all mobility-impaired people whether to get a manual or electric wheelchair, and some people may seek to get both to offset these disadvantages. There are collapsible or otherwise more portable power wheelchairs, but those are of course more expensive due to the greater engineering work that goes into them. https://www.quora.com/Do-people-prefer-manual-or-electric-wheelchairs There are other websites which explain the various pros and cons of each to potential consumers.

      Does that answer your question?

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