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UncategorizedWhen Gavin Newsom sells out the disability community

When Gavin Newsom sells out the disability community


By Bob Planthold

JULY 8, 2014 — Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom wrote an op-ed piece June 16th in the Sacramento Bee that focuses on the innovation brought on by Transportation Network Companies. But he ignores the TNCs’ obvious discrimination against people with disabilities.

Remember that as supervisor and as mayor, Newsom preached the value and necessity of “customer service” as a part of effective government. But somehow, with TNCs like Lyft, Sidecar, and Uber, this same goal is ignored or overlooked.

Newsom is not alone. The California Public Utilities Commission, the state Legislature, and the San Francisco mayor, city attorney, and Board of Supervisors have done the same thing. They have failed to acknowledge that a TNC, like a taxi company, is a “public accommodation,” as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Meaning it must serve all and be reachable by all.

Yet, TNCs are not incompliance, since they:

— Allow their drivers to decide not to pick up people with guide/ service dogs, and

— Can’t serve people who need ramps or lifts to enter and exit a public conveyance, and

— Are not usable by those who don’t have a smart phone.

This so-called innovation is biased towards those who are both fully able-bodied and have money and ability to use a smart-phone. Which means TNCs fail to meet the requirements of a public accommodation. This is becoming a national issue.

No one has yet verified whether the websites for the many “sharing economy” start-ups are accessible for those who are blind or low-vision. Some clearly aren’t — yet that also is overlooked by the many officials who genuflect to the Oz-like image of innovation.

This one-sided response by our public officials to TNCs, and to other sharing-economy companies, makes me wonder:

What are the core civil-rights values of the many public officials who are lavish in their praise of these sharing-economy companies? How committed are public officials and the news media to actually seek ways to get TNCs, and other sharing economy companies, to obey the law, especially if enforcement interferes with campaign contributions or ad revenues?

The Newsom op-ed is especially distressing to the disability communities. While Newsom was mayor, his picture was included among those on the webpage for the Mayor’s Office on Disability – based, I was told, on his previous public acknowledgment of dyslexia.

Thus, his total failure to address the inaccessibility of these sharing-economy companies is almost a denial of the relevance and importance of the rights of people with disabilities to the larger community.

Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.
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  1. The SF taxi industry put 30 million in SF Gov’s coffers last year. Lyft and Uber? Zero
    They are taxi companies in disguise that foist the cost of Workers Comp and insurance unto the Public

  2. Sam is a very selfish Libertarian type and couldn’t care less about the well-being of anyone except those with economic and health privileges. One day you may need some assistance, like get in a car wreck and the city’s finest have to take you to the hospital and maybe you might need, gosh forbid, some assistance from medical personnel, etc and what if you needed some rehab? Guess what? People would be there to do that. Why? Because they are part of the social contract to help get people through. No man is an island.,Sam, and you’re acting like we are but we’re not. We need a helpful social contract to get us all through, not just the temporarily able-bodied and well-off folks.

  3. Well, Sam, we have two distinct concepts of what our society ought to be. One, dog-eat-dog free-for-all haphazard-seize-the-lifeboat for yourself and those who support you, or alternatively, a social contract of mutual support, mutual respect and shared responsibility for the whole, whether it be the city, the state, the nation or the planet.

    What is it with you? Is it shoot first, and let God count the bodies?

    Taxes, which are currently designed to benefit wealth and impose on the working/”middle” class and small businesses, are supposed to be paid by all, and to be distributed according generally to various levels of need, but in fact are directed to specific industries (war and armaments, bankers, and developers) and to tax avoidance for wealth. While I am not a fan of Yellow Cab or other large companies that have screwed cab drivers, who work long hours and take home little, Uber and Lift et al, are part of the corporate/billionaire led campaign to dismantle our economy and turn millions of people into desperate marginal individuals scrambling for a living anyway they can.

    “tired old model of over-regulation”??? Where in the hell did you get that? Wall St. Journal, Cock Brothers? Is it over-regulating to require those who use chemicals to use the least toxic and do it safely? Is it expecting too much for our government to make certain drugs released to the public are safe? Is it over-regulating to require drivers of long-haul trucks and buses and trains to meet strict regulations for public safety? Would it be over-regulating to limit and restrict banks from issuing bundled worthless paper, the kind that is still going on, and led to the 2008 financial collapse? Is it over-regulating to require that fire fighters fight all fires, and answer all alarms, not just some as happened in the early 20th century? Is it over-regulating to make certain that all road signs and road markings conform to agreed-upon standards?

    What the fuck is the matter with you?

  4. All businesses seek to improve the profile of their client base. You probably know, for instance, that banks will close the credit card accounts of people who don’t use them. Such businesses are not charities and too many unprofitable clients would put them out of business.

    If that is true of traditional businesses then it even more true of the emergent sharing-economy model because, at its essence, the sharing economy is about ordinary people offering their assets and resources for share by other individuals in return for a consideration. But your focus is too much on the intermediaries and not on the individuals who share?

    Why? Because your tired old model of over-regulation required structured entities and deep pockets to threaten. When it is just Jack and Joe sharing with each other, that is overkill.

    Sure, smart-phone apps discriminate against blind people. But only in the sense that airlines won’t hire them as pilots either. It’s not clear to me that every single last thing on the planet has to be equally available to everyone, and if that is your interpretation of what our founding fathers envisaged than I have to tell you that you profoundly misunderstand what this nation is about.

    Sympathy and empathy? Yes. An endless race to the bottom just so nobody anywhere is ever a little inconvenienced? No way.

  5. I have an idea about what might motivate our public officials to promote the “sharing” economy.

    I’m going to take it as a given that we all know that there is an ongoing attempt to demolish the social contract (i.e. all economic and legal protections for the 99%), which has been going swimmingly for the last 35 years or so.

    I think that our public officials, who naturally take their marching orders from the super rich, have found a way to directly advocate for deregulation and lack of protections in a way that doesn’t make them seem heartless. As you have so doggedly pointed out, Tim, many of these sharing economy companies like Lyft and AirBnb, increase their profits by tax avoidance, avoiding serving the entire public by cherry picking their customers, and so on. And yet, with the relentless propaganda onslaught of the corporate media, these sharing economy companies have taken on a patina of hipness and even the appearance of being progressive and forward-looking, when in fact they are parasitic.

    Sharing economy companies and politicians are a match made in hell.

  6. “No one has yet verified whether the websites for the many “sharing economy” start-ups are accessible for those who are blind or low-vision. Some clearly aren’t”

    They are every bit as accessible as this web site is,

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