LivAbility Magazine

Edition 17 | Summer 2019

Ability360 partnering with Lyft, VMI to test accessible ride-sharing

Story by Gabrielle Olivera

Before 2019, Lyft, the ride-share app, did not have a widespread accessibility option for people with disabilities.

This is changing for Valley riders.

Recently, Vantage Mobility International (VMI), one of the largest manufacturers of wheelchair accessible vans, partnered with Lyft to ensure that people using wheelchairs can be accommodated in Phoenix.

Image shows a white van with a ramp providing wheelchair access on the side.

Though in the early stages of its pilot, Lyft hopes this program eventually spreads throughout the country.

“First and foremost, we are trying to provide access. Lyft has been an incredible partner with us with this opportunity to serve a population,” Jeff Butler, a project manager with VMI said.

Lyft, founded in 2012, operates in 640 cities and is constantly expanding the app features by testing out self-driving vehicles and launching scooters.

“A big part of the pilot is for us to figure this out and make sure that they have a smooth ride going forward,” Kaled Deeb, Lyft’s operation manager said. “So we’d love for anyone that participates in the pilot to let us know and give us feedback so that we can perfect the process,” Deeb added.

Image shows the back of a van with a ramp providing access to wheelchair-users.

Oftentimes, accessible public transit can be unpredictable or untimely, making it difficult for those who rely on it to plan and carry out their day.

“It’s really important, as a wheelchair user, to have predictable access to transportation,” Butler said.

Currently, there are six wheelchair accessible Lyft vehicles available in Phoenix. According to Deeb, Lyft hopes to have approximately 35 at the end of a three-month testing phase.

As part of the program, Ability360 will offer training sessions to drivers, teaching them how to interact with people with disabilities.

According to Deeb, Lyft plans to target their best drivers that are interested in assisting in the program. The drivers are then referred to VMI for an accessible van.

Similarly, Uber unveiled UberACCESS to the Phoenix market in 2015. UberACCESS introduced two new programs, one being UberWAV, an option for wheelchair accessible vehicles, and UberASSIST, which is designed for people who desire a helping hand during a ride.

“We believe that anyone should be able to get a ride and go wherever they need to whether they are in a wheelchair or not in a wheelchair,” Deeb said.

At the end of June, Lyft also announced that it is now an enrolled Medicaid provider in Arizona. With this, people can take ride-share vehicles, such as Lyft, to appointments.

If you want to take your next ride with Lyft, you can opt-in by downloading the Lyft application, using the left-side menu to select settings and selecting wheelchair access. First-time riders can also use the code, “ABILITY360” for $5 off your first four rides.

*The online version of this story reflects a clarification from Lyft regarding wheelchair accessible rides from Sky Harbor International Airport since 2015. 

Gabrielle Olivera

Gabrielle Olivera is a student at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. When Gabrielle isn’t writing or filming stories, she’s planning her next trip destination. Gabrielle hopes to make a lasting impact with the stories that she writes.

Read more by Gabrielle Olivera.