You will have undoubtedly heard the news a couple of weeks ago that the taxi service Uber is set to lose its license for operating around London. Hundreds of thousands of people have signed a Change.org petition to reinstate the company’s license, however it is currently unclear whether or not Uber’s appeal will be successful. Among the most popular complaints directed at Transport For London regarding their decision to suspend the firm’s license are that alternatives to Uber in London are more expensive, less convenient, and less safe. However, there is one big consequence of the controversial decision that is not being talked about.
A feature you may not have noticed on the Uber app is that of Uber Assist. This service is selectable from the main screen and works the same as regular Uber X, however it is intended to help passengers with disabilities who may require a little more time or who have assistance needs such as guiding or help with luggage. All of the drivers signed up to Uber Assist have been specifically trained to help people with a whole host of disabilities and this has been made very apparent to me from my experience with the service.
On every occasion in which I have used Uber Assist, I have been treated in a friendly and patient manner, without feeling partronised. My drivers have all been incredibly knowledgeable and accommodating: coming to collect me in unfamiliar locations, guiding me into and out of the car, and when it has been necessary, even helping me to find specific people or places, such as the reception of a building. For those who have never used assistance services, it is important to note that this is incredibly rare. To book assistance on public transport as a disabled person usually means accepting that you will either be treated like a child or talked about as if invisible. This is always down to a lack of proper training, something which is definitely not the case at Uber.
There have been a great number of circumstances where, without Uber Assist, I would have been completely incapable of completing my journey or getting home safely. Being visually impaired, I am unable to flag down a black cab or find a taxi rank, or make my way to a bus or train station.
Just yesterday, I would have been left completely stranded on my own with a dying phone if it wasn’t for my ability to quickly order an Uber Assist and leave the driver a voicemail of my specific circumstances and my exact location, as told by the built-in GPS. My driver was able to locate me, guide me into the taxi and get me safely and inexpensively to my destination.
From personal experience alone, it is clear that the impact of Uber’s London ban would be catastrophic for disabled Londoners. For many, unable to access buses or tubes for their daily commute to work, Uber is literally their only option. The removal of this service from the capital will not only hugely impact upon my independence as a visually impaired person, but the independence of thousands of other disabled Londoners who rely on the app everyday.
In terms of reliability, safety and quality, there really is no competition for Uber’s assisted travel. For this reason, I implore you to make your voice heard and speak out against the suspension of Uber’s license in London.
You can sign the official petition here.
Please like, share, and spread the word.