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Uber launches accessibility service

Date: 20 October 2015   |   Author: Daniel Puddicombe

Taxi alternative Uber has launched a service designed for those with access needs in London.

Known as UberAssist, the transport option is designed to provide additional assistance for disabled passengers.

Uber said all "partner-drivers" have completed a disability equality course, which was developed by transport charity Transport for All.

UberAssist vehicles will be able to accommodate "most folding wheelchairs", walkers and scooters, while the firm hopes to add fully wheelchair accessible vehicles to the platform by the start of next year.

To access the service, users will need to email to receive a code in the app. Once the code has been entered on the promotions tab, the Assist slider will become available when requesting a vehicle.

Meanwhile, the High Court in London has ruled that the app does not break the law.

The High Court had been asked to decide whether the firm's smartphone-based app is considered as a  meter, which is outlawed for private hire vehicles in the capital.

Mr Justice Ouseley declared that taximeters do not operate in the same way as the app as they do not depend on GPS signals to calculate fares.

"This was not a marginal call; it is quite emphatic. In fact, it is contemptuous of the case brought before it," an Uber spokesman told the BBC, while Transport for London said there had been "significant public interest in establishing legal certainty in the matter."

TfL is currently carrying out a consultation, which runs until 23 December, on how to regulate the industry.

Proposals include a five-minute wait between booking a taxi via an app and the pick-up, a ban on ride-sharing and a ban on apps showing which vehicles are immediately available.