An Open Letter to Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo

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Dear County Executive Dinolfo,

Thank you for advocating for more options for public transportation in Monroe County. It is important to talk about transportation options for the Disability Community as our options are limited and it often requires us to plan our lives a week or more in advance. This leaves people with disabilities without a ride to an important family event or appointments when they come up last minute.  It is so frustrating that we cannot book same day trips on a whim like nondisabled people can do.

However, we are disappointed to find you are supporting ridesharing companies like Uber or Lyft, which, since their inception have proven to not be accessible to people with physical disabilities and to be discriminatory to people with disabilities who use service animals. In fact, Uber has been in the news time after time regarding their refusal to give rides to disabled passengers. Situations escalated so far as to either leave disabled passengers at the curb or require passengers to put their service animals in the trunk of the car. In recent announcements, Uber has welcomed Deaf riders, riders with visual disabilities and some manual chair users who are able to transfer into the vehicle, but still refuse service to wheelchair users with power chairs and people who cannot transfer out of their manual chairs. Why welcome some members of our community with open arms and not all of us?  This refusal is discrimination at its finest and ridesharing companies have pulled every punch to try to get into the hearts and minds of the citizens of our county. This includes an Uber campaign to deliver ice cream to residents of Buffalo, Syracuse and Albany to entice people to advocate for Uber in their cities.

In your letter to county legislature, I am curious when you say that you have heard from “our community” that they want ridesharing. Who did you hear from exactly? It doesn’t seem that the Disability Community was asked at all in this poll. We ask that instead of hastily advocating for ridesharing, that you advocate for all ridesharing companies that want to operate in Monroe County to ensure wheelchair accessible vehicles are an option for people with disabilities. This could be a valuable service if you were to consider the lack of wheelchair accessible taxis in our county; however, it makes no sense to advocate for one inaccessible form of transportation over another. At the end of the day, disabled people in Monroe County are still unable to get from Point A to Point B in the same fashion a non-disabled person would.

We also ask that you address the need for accessible taxi cabs in Monroe County. The lack of accessible taxis is not only a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, but it is also another barrier that keeps people with disabilities trapped in their homes. We would like to see everyone afforded the opportunity to get out into the community and enjoy our county. However, if people cannot get transportation to leave their homes, they cannot enjoy our community events.

Thank you for opening up this topic for discussion. We urge you to withdraw your support for ride-sharing companies unless they are prepared to provide rides for all people with disabilities.

Ericka Jones