Ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft are seemingly everywhere. They’re beginning to make headway in small towns across the U.S. and beyond, and even in areas with widespread taxi services (think New York City and Chicago), Uber and its ilk are taking over. Ridesharing services bill themselves as more convenient, more user-friendly ways to get around than car services and traditional taxis, but in order for that to be true, they have to be convenient and user-friendly for all riders, regardless of their unique needs. Ridesharing specialty services — for handicapped people, seniors, kids and even pets — are increasingly popping up in major cities.
How to Rideshare with a Disability
For passengers with physical disabilities and special needs, there’s uberASSIST. Drivers enrolled in the service are trained to load scooters, wheelchairs and walkers, and to help passengers get into their vehicles. Passengers requiring such services simply enter the code “assist” into the promotions section. They can then call the driver once the ride is booked to let them know about special requirements. Rides cost the same as uberX.
For more specific assistance, Uber has a service called UberWAV, which connects riders with vehicles equipped with ramps or lifts. Lyft also offers an Accessible Vehicle Dispatch in some cities, thought it may require a multi-week enrollment process and 24-hour advanced ride booking.
Uber has made other strides to improve rideshare accessibility for people with physical handicaps. They’ve updated their apps to include special features for riders with hearing impairment, like visual alerts and notifications to drivers who can then text instead of call for updates. Uber also implemented features to help blind and low-vision customers, like their VoiceOver feature. Mike May, an Uber consultant and advocate for the blind and visually impaired said, “Uber is the single best advancement for the mobility of blind people in the past decade.”
How to Rideshare as a Senior
Seniors can also benefit from programs like uberASSIST as well as Lyft’s recently announced partnership that will help elderly passengers without smartphones get rides to non-emergency medical appointments. Customers in New York City (only, for now) can book a ride through Concierge, a third-party web app—no smartphone needed. Seniors can also use tools such as grandPad, a tablet and private network service with Uber integration which eases ride booking.
How to Rideshare with a Kid
In New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C., Uber customers can select uberFAMILY and—with a $10 surcharge—they’ll get picked up in a vehicle with a car seat and a driver who’s been thoroughly tested on its installation.
Interesting fact: most certified taxi and services are exempt from car seat laws. In many states, the exemption extends to services like Uber and Lyft (but if you have a car seat-aged child, you should look up the specific laws). But services like UberFAMILY are undoubtedly needed — a small child is infinitely safer in a car seat than not.
How to Rideshare as a Kid
Many ridesharing services have age requirements for use: Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar riders must be 18 or older, unless accompanied by an adult. That means parents can’t request rides for their underage children unless they will be in the car themselves.
However, parents quickly caught on to the convenience of ridesharing to lend a hand with the daily schlep. Rather than rush across town picking kids up from their respective sports/dance/music classes, parents saw an opportunity to have a child or two use ridesharing instead. And so blossomed services like Shuddle. Drivers are thoroughly vetted with in-person interviews, references, background checks (including criminal record checks), and identity verification. With Shuddle, parents book the ride the day before and get a full driver bio. Parents can also watch the entire trip in real time in the app. Anyone age 8 or older can use the service—no parental supervision required.
How to Rideshare with Pets
Uber and Lyft drivers have discretion when it comes to letting pets go along for the ride. Once you book a ride, give the driver a call and let them know you’d like to take your pet. If the driver isn’t comfortable with it, you can simply cancel the ride and try another (and Lyft will even reimburse your cancellation fee).
If the animal you’d like to take along is a service companion, the rules are different. A driver can’t refuse a passenger with a service animal like they can refuse to transport a passenger with a pet. Uber doesn’t require owners of service animals to notify drivers ahead of time, but Lyft encourages it (though drivers are only allowed to decline for medical reasons, and must help the passenger find another car).
For more, see our Quoted post all about ridesharing with pets.
Keep in mind that these ridesharing specialty services are not all available in every city, so look up the specific offerings in your area ahead of time if you need a specialty service.