When you’ve got somewhere to go, it’s awfully convenient to have a car arrive to take you there. But the National Federation of the Blind says not everyone is enjoying the right to get where they’re going with Uber, claiming in a federal civil rights lawsuit that the company’s drivers have refused to pick up blind customers, and in one case, allegedly put a service dog in the car’s trunk.
The advocacy group claims that there have been cases where drivers would arrive to pick up their customer, and upon realizing that customer was blind because they’d be standing with a service dog, would sometimes abandon those riders.
This allegedly happened sometimes in extreme weather, and often the drivers would charge cancellation fees afterward, according to the complaint reported by the Washington Post.
Then there was the time when a California UberX driver allegedly put a service dog in the trunk. The complaint accuses the driver of refusing to pull over and get the dog out of the trunk when the blind passenger would realize what was going on.
The group says another passenger tried to explain the idea of a service dog — a working animal, not a pet — when the driver allegedly swore at him and put the pedal to the metal, almost hurting a dog and hitting the passenger’s blind friend with an open car door.
All told, the group says there have been more than 30 times it knows of where blind passengers were turned down by Uber drivers, which is against the law under the American with Disabilities Act and California state law.
And when those passengers can’t get where they need to be on time, they “face the degrading experience of being denied a basic service that is available to all other paying customers,” the complaint said.
The group now wants Uber to train its drivers and instruct them on disability rights, as well as take action against violators by starting a system that would allow disabled passengers to register complaints immediately upon being refused because of service dogs.
Uber says in a statement that it does fire drivers who won’t take service animals.
“The Uber app is built to expand access to transportation options for all, including users with visual impairments and other disabilities,” the statement said.
But the group says Uber told some passengers they’re on their own when it comes down to individual drivers’ actions, because they’re independent contractors. It filed the complaint after Uber allegedly refused to negotiate a solution to the problem.