In the middle of last year Uber extended their fleet by adding wheelchair accessible vehicles and this week I got to trial one. I’ve used Uber quite a bit in various countries and have only good things to say, but as my wheelchair doesn’t fold and is a bit complicated to dismantle I rarely use them when I’m alone and sometimes worry I’ll be sent a car with a boot too small to fit it in.
After taking my first ride with UberWAV I’m really pleased with the service. It was a million times better than a black cab where you’re lucky if the ramp can actually be forced in to position and then you’re stuffed in sideways with your head crushed against the ceiling.
- My driver, Jean Francois was friendly, knew exactly how his seats dismantled and rear ramp came down, and efficiently made sure I was securely fastened. He helped me without being at all patronising and had good chat on the way home.
- The ride was very comfortable and the wheelchair felt secure, there was plenty of headroom and I was riding facing forward.
- Uber have assured me there’s no price discrimination between UberX and UberWAV.
- From Soho at midnight on a Saturday I only waited 10 minutes to get picked up.
There were a few cons to the service:
- Currently the fleet is quite small and the drivers mostly stay in central London. Thanks to incentives from Uber to pick passengers up, when I’ve checked to see if I could get a pick up from Streatham and Walthamstow a car did become available within a few minutes. Both times the car would have come all the way from central first so the waits were 35m and 56m. However, you can schedule a ride if you know what time you’ll be travelling.
- Although my wheelchair was securely fastened to the floor, I had no personal restraint as advised by Disabled Motoring UK. If we had been in an accident I may have ended up on Jean Francois’ lap.
- You can only take one passenger with you, although our driver did say in a small chair like mine it can be possible to fold down another seat, but that would be at the discretion of the driver.
As I have the option to get out of my wheelchair fairly easy I wasn’t sure how much use I would actually get from the service, as much as I welcome it. Now I’ve ridden with UberWAV I’m confident I’ll use it again, although if the wait were really long I might still opt to get in an UberX if I had another person with me to help with the chair. For me the service becomes really useful when I’m travelling on my own and as long as I’ve planned the pickup time in advance it’ll take all anxiety out of getting a taxi. If I had to wait less than 10/15 minutes I would always opt for an UberWAV over an UberX because it was so much less hassle.
Uber have also released another service called UberASSIST. This is a service for people who are able to use UberX cars but might need some extra assistance because of age, sight or mobility problems.
If you’ve never used Uber before you can try the service (UberX, ASSIST or WAV) with £15 off by using the code: HOTWHEELSUBER