Uber, Blind Passengers Reach Settlement In Lawsuit Over Service Animals

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More than a year after the National Federation of the Blind of California filed a lawsuit accusing Uber drivers of discriminating against passengers waiting for rides with service animals, the two sides announced they’ve reached a settlement.

Uber has agreed to take affirmative steps to prevent discrimination against blind riders who have guide dogs with them across the U.S. According to a press release from the Federation, this is the first nationwide class-action settlement of its kind against an app-based transportation network company.

Uber passengers had claimed that drivers denied them rides when they realized they’d have a guide dog in the car as well. In some cases, blind customers said drivers told them to put their animals in the trunk, or charge cancellation fees even when they were the ones to deny a ride.

Under the settlement, Uber is promising to end that kind of discrimination: the company says it will take steps to inform drivers about their obligations to transport riders with service animals, and will require new drivers to expressly confirm that they understand their legal obligations to do so.

The company will also use stricter enforcement in cases where drivers fail to comply: it’ll only take a single complaint now to have a driver removed from the platform if Uber finds that the driver knowingly denied a rider with a service animal. If a driver has more than one such complaint leveled at them, they’ll be booted from the platform regardless of the driver’s intent.

The ride-hailing company is also promising to improve its response system for these kinds of discrimination complaints, and will track detailed data related to all such allegations.

The National Federation of the Blind will also be going behind the scenes, sending out testers over a multi-year period to make sure Uber is complying with the settlement.

“Access to reliable and effective transportation is critical to the ability of blind people to live the lives we want,” Mark A. Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said. “Uber and similar services can be a great asset to the blind when they are fully and equally available to us. The National Federation of the Blind is therefore pleased with Uber’s commitment to effectively enforce a nondiscrimination policy with respect to blind people who use guide dogs. We look forward to working with Uber to ensure that all blind passengers can take advantage of the innovative transportation service it offers.”

The agreement is now awaiting approval from the court to settle as a nationwide class action.

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