Uber told to compensate disability rights activist

Arman Ali, the disability rights activist. (DH photo)

In what could come as a relief to persons with disability, Delhi State Commission for Persons with Disability has asked Uber India to compensate Arman Ali, a disability rights activist from Assam, who was denied a ride to Chennai airport on June 20 this year, leading him to miss his flight to Bengaluru.

The commission also recommended Uber to train its driver-partners on key provisions of the Rights of Persons with Disability Act 2016 and asked the Ministry of Heavy Industries and Ministry of Road Transport and Highways to frame a policy so that wheelchair-friendly vehicles are manufactured.

Ali, the executive director of the National Centre for Promotion of Employment of Persons with Disability, uses a wheelchair as he is afflicted with 80% locomotor disability. Ali faced a lot of harassment when the Uber driver in Chennai off-boarded him and refused to accommodate his wheelchair. In the process, Ali missed his flight and had to shell out Rs 14,000 to book another ticket.

The commission, which took a suo motu cognizance of a video of the incident, underlined that Section 46 of the 2016 Act mandated that the service providers--be it government or private shall provide services in accordance with the rules on accessibility.

Uber India first did not reply to the Commission's notice issued on June 24 to show cause, neither the company's representative did turn up for hearing on June 24. The company also did not appear on the next date of hearing fixed on August 22. 

In the third date of hearing on October 30, Uber India System Private Limited lawyer, Pradyumn Sharma expressed regret over the harassment meted out by the driver to Ali but said that the company does not control the conduct of the partner drivers. "The operation of Uber only involves providing riders a technology platform for connecting them with independent third party contractors; wherein, such independent third party contractors are not employees of Uber. Such contractors are not plying vehicles owned by Uber, and Uber does not control conduct of such contractors," order of commission quoted Uber's reply.

The company, however, informed the commission that it was planning to launch two disabled-friendly initiatives--Uber ASSIST and Uber ACCESS to increase mobility, efficiency and freedom of customers/users of Uber App. A pilot project was underway in Bengaluru, it said.

In the first of its kind order to a global company, commissioner, Thakur Dutt Dhariyal recommended that the driver partner should provide the penalty in case of discrimination or non-compliance of the provisions of the Rights of the Persons with Disability Act. He also laid emphasis on the principles of dignity, non-discrimination, equality and accessibility as enshrined under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability. 

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