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Independent Living News & Policy from the National Council on Independent Living

Lyft and Uber Service Dog Denials

By Melissa Carney

At the beginning of the year, a woman from Texas with cerebral palsy filed a lawsuit against Uber after she was denied service on 25 separate occasions during 2016 and 2017. She was left stranded without rides home from the grocery store, and was late to an important family gathering. An Uber driver in Boston told a blind woman that she was not allowed to enter his car, and her legally blind boyfriend was dragged down the street after the Uber driver rolled up the window with his arm inside as he tried to open the car door. A blind man from Tennessee was denied a ride home from an animal hospital. All of these incidents have occurred at different times, on different dates, and in different places, but one common theme prevails: all of these passengers were denied rides because of their service dogs.

NCIL logo - National Council on Independent LivingAccording to Uber’s policy, “A driver-partner CANNOT lawfully deny service to riders with service animals because of allergies, religious objections, or a generalized fear of animals.” All drivers are made aware of this policy and are obligated to comply with the law upon signing their terms of agreement. If an Uber driver refuses to transport a rider because of their service animal, they violate the law and breach their agreement with Uber. If Uber determines that the driver knowingly refused to transport a rider and their service animal after thoroughly investigating the case, the driver is permanently removed from the platform. Lyft’s policy is very similar to Uber’s, but drivers have one chance to be educated before they are removed from the platform. Despite these strict policies and multiple lawsuits, such as the National Federation of the Blind’s settlement with Uber in 2016, drivers continue to take it upon themselves to make uninformed and discriminatory decisions as to who should be allowed in their cars. 

I have experienced at least one Uber denial in every city or state I have traveled to, including Washington DC, Boston, Orlando, small towns in Connecticut, etc. During the most recent incident, the driver and I had a 10-minute phone conversation, in which I told the driver that I was blind and would need assistance finding their vehicle, while they sat in their car just down the block staring at my guide dog and me. The driver complained that their car was for people and not dogs, refused to tell me where exactly they were located, and abruptly canceled the ride. A language barrier further amplified the issue. I tried to educate the driver; I attempted to explain that if they did not comply with the law, they would eventually be kicked off of the platform. I was as patient and polite as possible, but my efforts resulted in nothing more than a 15-minute standstill in the pouring rain as I waited for my next driver to arrive, and a cancelation fee for the bus I missed leaving the city.

It is horrifying to think that the treatment of people with disabilities often hinges on the mobility tool they use. Transportation services are an integral part of how we independently navigate through different cities and towns across the country, as are our service animals. To imply that we cannot use one navigational tool because of another, to be told that the cleanliness of a car is more valuable than freedom and autonomy, is absurd. An apology, a $5 credit, a promise that we will not be paired with the same discriminatory driver again, and an investigation of unlawful behavior is not enough.

People with disabilities have commitments and responsibilities just like anyone else. We have to travel to work, school, meetings, and other time-sensitive events. We would like to live our lives without the constant question of whether or not we will be discriminated against on any given day. Sometimes we can afford to be late and take the extra time to file complaints with Lyft or Uber, but sometimes we need to arrive at a specific place at a specific time because our obligations will not wait for us. We cannot be late for work on a consistent basis, lose out on previously booked public transportation, sacrifice visits to family members and friends, and so on. It is our right to live our lives without discrimination-induced disturbances.

Comments

  1. Cameron Michael Shearer says

    hello, my name is cameron. younger disabled veteran and I have problems holding accountability for ada accomedations request from the larger ride share company LYFT.
    After repeated requests to have a possible discrimination addressed by the company that will not act on my claims and are not taking my requests seriously and yet no one is being held responsible. I have just been brushed of as a threat to lyfts satisfaction rating.
    Anything I can do or an advocacy for disabled veteran discrimination.
    I feel this example is perfect situation for LYFT to get away treating those with disabilities.
    how is this being allowed? disrespected and discriminated. This in an extreme injustice against ada laws and regulations.

  2. Lara Ellison says

    3 denials to drive me and my service dog out of only 12 ,Lyfts. Took my time to submit full complaints, got back bullshit cover-up responses, not one driver was terminated bullshit $5 credits. “We contacted the driver and if they do it again we will terminate them.” Complete lie on their consent decree to class action lawsuits. The drivers are rude, blatant about it and drive away because they know nothing is EVER done to them!!! Same thing with Uber. We need to sue them again with heavy fines for violating the consent decrees. Also they are hiding and deleting our complaints, sending out response sorry your driver took a longer route. Hey fraudster s, there was no ride.

  3. I dont think it is considered discriminatory if the driver of his or her own vehicle has a severe allergy to animal dander to deny a ride. Would the passenger be comfortable with the driver being forced to do the ride and have an anaphylactic reaction while driving said rider and as I have seen happen, the driver stop breathing, lose conscienous and get into a severe accident and possibly the driver dies? Whats discrimatory for denying for that reason alone? Nothing.

    • Nope. No denying service animals. No exceptions.

    • Richard Alty says

      If you are blind, you can’t work as an Uber driver, because being able to see is an essential requirement of the job.

      If you have severe allergies to.dogs, you can’t work as an Uber driver, because transporting service dogs is an essential requirement of the job.

      It’s not complicated.

  4. judy kanary says

    Hello My name is Judy I am 68 years old and have a emotional support small terrier mix dog.I had been in a roll over car accident previously and had a severe brain injury. I have a emotional support dog because of depression and anxiety. On 08/10/20 around 7 pm I needed a ride from my daughters apt to my apt and I so I called Lyft and arranged a ride. I was waiting on the side of the road in front of the apt complex when the driver turned onto the road where I was standing. I thought he was gonna stop where I was but he kept on rolling passed me about 12 feet I thought that was strange because he was looking at me as I was trying to reach out for the car door as I walked along while he was moving. I finally got in and he immediately said I am allergic to dog hair and said I should not be giving you a ride. I just sat there and then he said well you will have to ride with all the windows down. He rolled them all down and the temperature was around 90. I was already extremely hot waiting outside for Lyft. We continued on to my apt in Deer Park about 5 miles with all the windows down. The wind from the windows being down was extremely strong. By the time I got to my apt I was so hot and my little dog was panting and hot as well. I got nauseated from being over heated. Every time my dog moved in my lap the driver kept looking back at us. I thought any minute he was going to pull over and make me get out. We finally reached my destination and I told him that was very rude of him and it was discrimination rolling all the windows down and making me ride in the hot car. He hollered out the window at me that if I didn’t like it why didn’t I get another ride. I am thinking of filing discrimination against the driver. I cried when I got home because there was nothing I could do but to accept the wind blowing my hair all to pieces and being extremely over heated.

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