Tag: apps

Will Uber Play Our Tuba

When you are about to finish in a job, you can’t help thinking of the things you would have done if you were staying.

I’ve been doing that, and wondering about what will happen to these issues. My job as Australia’s Disability Discrimination Commissioner is down-graded after 4 July. Instead of a very full-time role where I have lived experience of disability, and a knowledge of the disability sector, the role will be filled part-time by an existing Commissioner with knowledge of their own sector.

One of these issues is the changing face of our public transport system, particularly taxi transport.

If you have any involvement with the disability sector, you would have to be aware of the problems people with disabilities face using taxis-

* There are not enough accessible taxis on the road, thus making waiting times significantly longer;

* Those accessible taxis on the road are often diverted to other jobs;

* Taxi drivers sometimes refuse to carry passengers who travel with assistance animals.

The list goes on.

But there is an emerging issue, and its impact on people with disabilities could make these problems seem like the first few chords compared with the whole symphony experience.

Increasingly, we are ordering taxis using apps on our smartphones. An improvement you might say, making the process more efficient. But will the efficiency exclude passengers with disabilities? Will they be playing our song?

It’s all very well if the apps supplement the current system-
Silver Service in Sydney is an example, where Taxis Combined enhances its service with an app. It’s all very well if another provider- Ingogo or Gocatch for instance – use existing taxis, but more efficiently or cheaply funnel the business through their app. You get a taxi faster, you don’t have to wait to talk to a human, and you can watch the little dot on your screen as it approaches.

But what about companies such as Uber. Overseas, and beginning in Australia, Uber are offering a range of services, the cheapest of which involves curating a group of private car owners who will provide a “taxi” service for a fee, and putting them in touch with customers. Great, you might say, my taxi service just became cheaper and more available. But for people with disabilities, will it be violins rather than the whole orchestra?

Let’s ask some questions.

* Are passengers insured when travelling on a hire basis in a private vehicle?

* Will these services pick up people who use wheelchairs or mobility equipment?

*Will these services carry people who use assistance animals?

Overseas experience suggests that the answers to all of these questions is no.

But if such services take off, we may see a real decline in authorised taxi services, which will be driven out of business by competition at cheaper rates.

Is anyone yelling budget airlines, and what they have done to passengers with disabilities? Because I am.

The only solution I can come up with, and its not the “silver bullet”, is that – as the providers of services – both the app operator and the private car owner should be liable to the lodging of complaints under the Disability Discrimination Act. I’m not aware of any complaints having been lodged yet, but if you have had this problem you’d better start preparing them. Because if you don’t, these services will be upon us, and it will be a hard tide to turn back.

Even harder without a full-time Commissioner with lived experience of disability. Once again, we’ll be locked out of the orchestral performance.

Graeme Innes will, until 4 July, be Australia’s Disability Discrimination Commissioner.

A Happy Apper

When you’re travelling and can’t see, the mini bar can provide some dilemmas.  How much you drink is a matter for you- what you drink can be more of a lottery.

I travelled from Sydney to Auckland recently at the request of RRRT  to conduct some training for Pacific country politicians on the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities.  I got to my hotel without being waylaid by hobbits or dragons and discovered that my Aussie dollar didn’t have quite the clout it had last year.

The length of the flight and the two hour time change meant that I arrived mid to late evening, after the hotel restaurant had closed.

I turned to the mini bar for a cleansing ale before retiring.

Reaching into the “electric chillibin” known as an Esky or fridge on this side of the Tasman, my hand discovered four bottles with crown seals, which could have been beers.  But were they beers, and which beers were they?

Who ya gonna call? Out comes the iPhone, and I tell Siri to “open Tap Tap See.”

I place the bottle on the top of the fridge, point the iPhone camera and click the app.  Seconds later Karen (the voice of the iPhone)  tells me it is Jack Daniels bourbon. Not what I want.

Two bottles later, using the same process, the Crownie  I’m looking for comes up in the camera lens, and Karen announces the result.

I crack the twist top crown seal, and settle back to enjoy my New Zealand beer, a happy apper.

Graeme Innes is a lover of accessible apps, and experiences significant withdrawal symptoms when his iPhone is not in his hand or pocket.