The unemployment rate for people with disabilities has barely changed since the ADA was passed in 1990, and financial independence is still far out of reach for many wheelchair users. But some find if they have a nice car and hand controls, they can make money driving for transportation network companies like Uber. Below are three wheelchair users who are making the Uber platform work for them.

From Venice to Uber
Born in Venice, Italy, Luigi Girotto, 54, moved to Rye, New York, where he now lives with his family. “I was 40 years old and I had a career crisis,” Girotto said. “Nothing was challenging me enough.”

Luigi Girotto drives for Uber with quad hand controls.

Luigi Girotto drives for Uber with quad hand controls.

Then came a skiing accident in Austria 10 years ago that resulted in quadriplegia, after which he was upset because he didn’t think he’d ever be able to drive again. “A friend of mine, also a quadriplegic, said if I could touch my nose, I could drive,” says Girotto. And he could touch his nose. Four years after his injury, he was once more driving independently.

A jewelry consultant who commutes five days a week to Manhattan, Girotto first learned about Uber from his son, a student at the University of Miami who uses Uber to get around the city. He was intrigued with the platform and in 2014 signed up to be a part-time UberX driver serving the Greenwich and Stamford communities in nearby Connecticut.

If he’s not in Manhattan or driving UberX, chances are you’ll find Girotto talking with people who’ve recently sustained a spinal cord injury at the local Burke Hospital. Or, on the slopes somewhere, as skiing — presumably adaptive skiing — is still his favorite sport.

Marine Vets Says Uber Can Break Down BarriersBob-UberDriver
A few years ago, Bob

[name withheld] and his wife sat in their Ohio home watching the snow pile up against the front door. They decided enough was enough and moved south to Charlotte, North Carolina. He needed a fresh break, since hearing loss meant he could no longer continue in his job as a 911 dispatcher, and he wasn’t sure how he would make ends meet.

But Bob, a wheelchair user since 1970 due to injuries sustained while serving with the Marines during the Vietnam War, is nothing if not resilient.

Job opportunities were sparse in Charlotte, but after speaking with an Uber operations manager about his modified Dodge Caravan in 2014, he decided to drive for Uber and has driven for them since, enjoying the social interaction.

“Uber is a way for a lot of vets to get out — especially disabled vets — who are stuck at home trying to find something to do,” says Bob. “It’s a good way to try to break down the barriers that are still left for people with disabilities.” He is part of Uber’s UberMILITARY initiative, which actively recruits veterans, reservists and military spouses to drive on the Uber platform.

Gabriel Garcia turned his own luxury vehicle into a moneymaker.

Gabriel Garcia turned his own luxury vehicle into a moneymaker.

Jack of All Trades
Gabriel Garcia says he’s pretty much a jack of all trades. “I really don’t do one thing, I do as much as I can, and Uber driving is one of them,” says Garcia. Although he has a full-time job as a bookkeeper for a national student housing company, Garcia has driven for UberSELECT in Austin, Texas, since 2014 to supplement his income and keep him busy. “I really enjoy what Uber has been able to do in allowing me to get out there and to work, make a profession and interact with so many people.”

A low quad who uses a manual chair, Garcia didn’t want to stop driving SUVs after sustaining his injury 10 years ago, and thought, “Why not go for the biggest vehicle possible to modify?” He found a company that could customize his full-size Cadillac Escalade. The driver’s seat swings out and drops down so he can transfer into it. Then a lift pulls his wheelchair into the back seat area and stows it.

Garcia’s Escalade is so nice that he qualifies to be a driver for UberSELECT, a product designed as a mid-tier option for frequent riders who want a little luxury in their lives. So far he has given over 1,000 rides since partnering with Uber.