Uber Testing App Enhancements That Help Deaf And Hard Of Hearing Drivers



We’ve covered in the past Uber’s problems with the ride-hailing service’s disabled passengers, which range from ride snubs to service dogs forced to ride in the trunk. It’s worth keeping that in mind when you learn about Uber’s latest change to their driver app to accommodate a different community of people with disabilities: the service is testing changes to its system that make driving for the service possible for people who are deaf.

Many of the changes to the app could, in theory, be helpful to all drivers. The set of features are being tested in four cities right now, One feature for deaf and hard of hearing drivers is that the passenger is prompted to type in their destination address, which is much easier for a driver who can’t hear, but would also make life easier for a hearing driver too. Another is flashing a light to alert the driver that there’s a nearby passenger hailing instead of using a sound cue, and blocking voice phone calls, limiting communication from passengers to text messages only.

People with disabilities have a hard time finding employment, and while piecework in the on-demand economy isn’t ideal, the app changes make things easier for people who do choose to drive for a living. “The NAD applauds the efforts of Uber to promote increased work opportunities for deaf and hard-of-hearing drivers,” the CEO of the National Organization for the Deaf said in a statement for Uber’s announcement post. “Moreover, we commend Uber for enhancing their mobile app to improve communications between drivers and passengers, regardless of whether they are hearing or deaf.” Better communication between people hurtling around in a small metal box at 70 miles per hour so is something that we should always work toward.

For Uber, though, this update comes at an interesting time, as the company is being sued by the National Federation for the Blind, and defends itself by saying that as a company that provides a mobile app and platform, they don’t need to follow federal and local laws regulating transportation for disabled people. That’s up to their drivers, who aren’t even required to take any Uber-mandated training. While that lawsuit is pending, Uber added features to attract a new population of drivers from a community who have historically been under-employed.

Uber Unveils App Updates to Help Its Deaf Drivers [Wired]

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