Disabled drivers get behind the wheel with Uber

Uber has partnered with an employment agency set up to cater for clients with a disability. Source: AAP

People with disabilities are now turning to the ride sharing business Uber to make ends meet.

Uber has partnered with an employment agency set up to cater for clients with a disability, such as Jordan, who spends six days a week driving for Uber in Perth.

"I asked them at first would my height be a problem and they said no because you use your own vehicle, you get to work when you like," she said.

Jordan lives with a condition known as Achondroplasia, a form of dwarfism.

"It's really a way to find employment for people who have faced discrimination or applied for a thousand job interviews...They can get out there, start driving straight away, as long as they meet the requirements." 

She found work with Uber, which has partnered with Enabled Employment, to help people with disabilities to find work.

Enabled Employment chief executive Jessica May said Uber is great for people with diability.

"They've got an app for people who are hard of hearing and also people with speech impediments to become drivers, they've also got lots of people with disability working on their platform.

"It's really a way to find employment for people who have faced discrimination or applied for a thousand job interviews...They can get out there, start driving straight away, as long as they meet the requirements," she said.

While the partnership has clear benefits for drivers such as Jordan, it is work the taxi industry argues is actually illegal.

The president of the Taxi Drivers Association of Australia, Michael Jools, is concerned Uber may not provide the same safety standards as taxis.

"We have a thing called the Passenger Transport Act in every state of the country, it's different in each state, and it says that a car that carries people for hire is a public passenger vehicle and it has to meet certain standards.

'Registered vehicle, registered driver, insurance, inspection, recording by cameras and audio of what goes on in the cab, all sorts of things. Uber doesn't do any of that." he said.

Governments grapple with problem of regulating Uber     

Uber is facing similar arguments against its business model in multiple juridictions all over the world. Some countries, including Germany and France have imposed outright bans on the taxi rival.

Mr Jools says taxi fares are too high, but he argues Uber has an unfair advantage because it doesn't have to pay the sort of costs imposed on cabs.

"What (Uber has) done is to come in at a price that is 30 to 40 per cent below what we charge, not because we're charging too much, but because they are not paying the same costs," he said

While Uber is essentially a private taxi service, it prefers to label itself as a ride-sharing business.

Uber Australia said it is working with governments to be regulated in a different way to taxis.

"We're not pushing to be regulated as a taxi, we're working hard with government to be regulated as ride sharing.

"It's a whole new category, it opens up new opportunities through technology such as our enabled employment partnership," said Uber Australia's Tenielle Stoltenkamp.

"I think that it's a matter of times are changing. Technology is changing and evolving and I think the regulation that we're seeing come to the forefront is regulation that actually acknowledges that and is working to embrace that change in new technology."

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