Photo: Mario Tama (Getty)

We’re in the season of multi-billion-dollar rideshare IPOs where the spotlight is on global and unprofitable transportation companies like Lyft and Uber as they try to get into the black. Let’s check in with how the process is unfolding.

Excuse me, I’m sorry, my notes here say that actually, Lyft is not in the transportation business. Sure, the company moves you from place to place by various means, but those are just details, the San Francisco firm’s lawyers argued in court recently.

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In response to multiple discrimination lawsuits, Lyft argued that “it is not in the transportation business” and therefore should not be troubled by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Instead, Lyft argues, it is a technology company.

Might it be that Lyft is actually a transportation technology company? Presumably, they would loudly scoff at the idea but Lyft didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The comments, first reported by Politico, come from a lawsuit filed in 2017 by Harriett Lowell of White Plains, New York, who is suing the company for failing to serve people with disabilities both in her hometown and around the United States.

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For the sake of posterity, here’s the statement highlighted in a court filing by Lyft from March 30:

Just for fun, let’s take a look at page 3 of the S-1 form Lyft recently filed with the SEC in the lead-up to the company’s $25 billion IPO:

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Oh! Okay. That sounds like a not-transportation company to me. Case closed.

The distinction matters. A “transportation company” has strict obligations under the ADA. A mere app maker, Lyft argues, doesn’t have to worry about all the red tape that comes with providing accessible options for people who need them.

In addition to the New York lawsuit, the company also faces another in California claiming it discriminates against disabled individuals. If it says “not a transportation company” enough times, does that make it true?

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