The lawsuit claims that in recent years Hertz has made its services less accessible to people with disabilities by drastically reducing the models and types of vehicles that may be reserved with hand controls.  -  Photo: Sora Shimazaki / Pexels

The lawsuit claims that in recent years Hertz has made its services less accessible to people with disabilities by drastically reducing the models and types of vehicles that may be reserved with hand controls.

Photo: Sora Shimazaki / Pexels

Nonprofit law firm Disability Rights Advocates filed a class action lawsuit in the Northern District of California on Feb. 22 alleging Hertz is violating the civil rights of people with disabilities who need hand controls to operate a rental car.

The lawsuit filed by Disability Rights Advocates (DRA), a non-profit law firm based in Berkeley, California, names plaintiffs Carina Ho and Christina Mills on behalf of the class of rental car customers who need to use hand controls.

In a statement released to ARN on Feb. 27, Hertz public relations said: “Hertz is committed to accommodating the needs of all customers and making the rental experience as convenient as possible, including by offering a fleet of specially equipped vehicles and services for people with disabilities. Due to the ongoing nature of this litigation, we cannot comment further at this time.”

While there are many configurations, hand controls generally consist of a mechanism that allows drivers to accelerate and brake using one hand, and a “spinner knob” that allows for steering with the other hand, DRA explained in a news release. Hand controls can be installed and used in virtually any car on the market today.

The law firm contends that Hertz had a policy of providing hand controls for people with disabilities in a wide variety of its rental cars. In recent years Hertz has made its services less accessible to people with disabilities by drastically reducing the models and types of vehicles that may be reserved with hand controls, DRA said.

“This means that Hertz openly excludes people who need hand controls from renting a variety of vehicle categories that are available to the company’s nondisabled customers,” DRA stated.

By depriving customers who need hand controls of the opportunity to rent whole categories of vehicles, Hertz is denying people with disabilities the full and equal enjoyment of its goods and services that is their legal right under the Americans with Disabilities Act, DRA said.

Plaintiffs Mills and Ho use wheelchairs and require hand controls to operate a rental car. On multiple occasions, they have sought to rent a vehicle from Hertz but have found that hand controls were only available on an extremely limited (and often, more expensive) set of Hertz vehicles, DRA said.

Sean Betouliere, a senior staff attorney at Disability Rights Advocates, said people with disabilities have been asking Hertz to revise its hand control policies since at least 2016, and in January 2024 the plaintiffs sent the company a final letter asking that it voluntarily do so. “Unfortunately, Hertz once again refused to make any changes, leaving us no choice but to file suit,” Betouliere said in a news release.

Full lawsuit complaint: Civil Case No. 24-1066 in the U.S. District Court Northern District of California.

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