Can A Taxi Refuse Service Based On Disability?

Dr Handicap - taxi

Over 54 million people in the United States are living with disabilities. Even though they’re faced with a variety of challenges, they still need to be able to go about their business, go to work or school, visit friends and family, and enjoy shops and restaurants.

Many of these people rely on taxi services or private cars to help them get around. In fact, 10% of the customer base for taxis are actually people with disabilities. But even though there are regulations against disability discrimination, there are still some people who get turned away from a taxi ride.

So, can a taxi refuse service based on disability? Technically, under the Americans with Disabilities Act, they cannot. Here’s a breakdown of all you need to know!

What is the Americans with Disabilities Act?

The Americans with Disabilities Act, also known as ADA, is part of the Code of Federal Regulations of the United States of America. Coming into effect in 1990, it was designed to protect the civil rights of people with disabilities and ensure they have equal access to employment, public accommodations, and public and private transportation.

As private companies, taxi services must comply with ADA requirements – which means they can’t refuse service to a person simply because they have a disability. Aside from not being able to refuse rides, the ADA also requires that taxi personnel are mandated to be trained so that they can provide assistance to people with disabilities.

Adequate training ensures that each driver knows:

  • How to use and maintain accessibility features and equipment in accessible vehicles
  • Proper securement of mobility devices
  • Sensitive and appropriate interactions with passengers with disabilities
  • The requirements of the ADA
Dr Handicap - disability

Image by Falco on Pixabay: Individuals with disabilities are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

What is not considered a disability under ADA?

The ADA lists a disability as any type of physical impairment, such as a physiological disorder or condition, anatomical loss, or cosmetic disfigurement, that impacts one or more of these body systems:

  • Neurological
  • Special-sense organs
  • Musculoskeletal
  • Digestive
  • Cardiovascular
  • Respiratory
  • Reproductive
  • Hemic and lymphatic
  • Endocrine
  • Skin
  • Genitourinary

A disability could also include mental impairments, such as a psychological or mental disorder, mental retardation, organic brain syndrome, or learning disabilities. The ADA does not always cover temporary illnesses or disabilities that don’t affect at least one major area of the person’s life.

What would ADA discrimination look like?

The following practices are considered illegal under the ADA:

  • A company or driver denying service to any individual with a disability who can use taxi vehicles
  • A company or driver charging higher fares or fees to passengers with disabilities
  • A company or driver denying a ride to a customer using a service animal (not an emotional support animal)
  • A driver refusing to assist with stowing wheelchairs or other mobility devices

Do ride-sharing apps have to follow ADA regulations?

Things have gotten a little more complicated when it comes to disability rights in the age of Uber and Lyft. Technically, these types of drivers are supposed to follow the same ADA guidelines by not refusing service and being able to offer assistance if needed. However, most drivers are uneducated about the guidelines, so unfortunately, many people with disabilities are refused transport by rideshare drivers.

Rideshare services generally suggest reporting to the company if you’re denied a ride because of your disability. More legislation will need to be put into place to help firm up these regulations with ride-sharing apps in the future.

Image by Mike Tsitas on Unsplash: Taxis and ride-sharing apps are not permitted to refuse service based on a disability.

What should you do if a taxi refuses you service based on your disability?

You have a couple of options when it comes to reporting discrimination. Your first option should be to report your experience to the taxi company directly (in writing, either through an email or the mail). They might be able to offer you a refund and will hopefully better train their staff in the future.

If you don’t get anywhere with this avenue, you can file an ADA complaint with the US Department of Justice at 1-800-514-0301 or go to You can also contact the city or state you live in for more specific information about filing a complaint based on ADA discrimination.

Depending on the situation, there might be a fine or citation issued to the taxi or private car service. Some people who have been discriminated against decide to file lawsuits against the offending party. No matter what you decide to do, it’s a good idea to at least file some sort of complaint so that the company has a chance to make things right and improve their services for disabled passengers in the future.

You are entitled to take advantage of a taxi or private car service simply by being a resident of the US. Educate drivers or companies that might not fully know the law, and make sure to file complaints when you’ve been treated unfairly.

You deserve to use taxis and ride-shares as much as anybody, so don’t back down from a fight if you’ve been discriminated against!

Featured image by Michael Gaida on Pixabay