Sendero Group Travel Blog

Follow Sendero travelers on their adventures using accessible GPS.

Monday, March 31, 2014


combining GPS and the Uber service by Mike May

I have been using the Uber taxi service in several cities recently including here in Paris. It is cheaper and more convenient than your average taxi.
Once you set up an account, it is easy to book a ride and the charges automatically take place once you get where you are going. You don't have to worry about being ripped off or having your credit card number stolen. You also don't have to worry about the driver not picking you up because you have a dog.

One of the things you have to get used to is choosing your pick up location.
It is typically chosen based on where the app thinks you are. It is nice to double check this on your iPhone or other GPS app. If you have to put in a specific address, you can find that out on your GPS and then enter it in the Uber app. It is nice to create a route to your destination to make sure the driver is going the shortest route. Every Uber I have used has a GPS.

When they don't speak English, it is handy to show them the address written on the screen on your iPhone.

Out of the 10 times I have used Uber, I have rated them 5 stars 9 times.
I'll be taking them to the airport on Tuesday and the fare quote is 45 Euro compared with the 85 Euro in a taxi it took when we arrived. I'd say that 95% of the items in the Uber screens talk properly.


The app from Uber as well as those from Sidecar and Lyft display an image of the car requested and its location on a street map as the vehicle approaches the pick up location. Blind people cannot access this information because none of the ride share apps display the street address of the vehicle. This can be important, as I have had the experience of an Uber driver stopping 20 feet from me and watching me wait. He seemed to believe I was waiting for a taxi and not him.

In addition, the apps do not use helpful hints, which would guide VoiceOver users to select items to better access the service. This would include describing how to change the pickup address. Do you believe this additional functionality would be useful? Currently the National Federation of the Blind is in structured negotiations with sidecar, which offers the same kind of service that Uber does. If an agreement is reached, it can be used as a model for the entire ride share industry.
I have found Uber support to be very responsive. I wonder if anyone has sent them this feedback.

I tend to call them once the app says they have arrived if I am uncertain about the location. If I am at a clear stop, like a hotel or restaurant, it is easy. If I am on the street, the location can be more ambiguous.

BTW, in Paris, there is something called Uber Pop, which is even cheaper for 1 or 2 passengers. I wonder if they will add Uber Scooter, there are so many of those around here.
After writing the previous message on this topic, I had trouble connecting with the driver on my next Uber trip. I think the problem is that iPhone GPS is only so accurate and you can be a block or so away from each other, especially in a city. Even though we cannot see where the Uber car is on the map, I am not sure it matters too much. You have the easy option to call or text the driver to say something like I am a blind guy with a cane or I am in a dark blue suit. Look for me because I cannot see you.

I also discovered under the profile that you can add your picture. I'd use a picture of me using a cane but I have a dog most of the time.

The problem I ran into was that the driver and I didn't speak the same language. We were close but he couldn't even understand when I said I was blind, standing on the corner waving my cane in the air. I don't know any French so we were stuck.

I asked several people walking by if they spoke English and finally got someone who took the phone and connected me with the driver.

The only slightly bad part of that was that I handed her my iPhone 5S. When she went down the block to locate him, I worried that she could just take off with my phone.

I will share this message with Uber and express some concern about this issue and see if something can be done. For example, if the profile offered the option to add a few personal details, that field could be automatically translated. Uber is in many cities around the world so these localization issues are of importance for the global traveler.

Oh, I also called up my specific address on my BrailleNote GPS but because of the language issue, I couldn't communicate it to the driver. I had put in the address of the business I was at for my pick-up location so one wonders why he couldn't find that to begin with.
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