Uber, the ride-sharing app that connects drivers and riders in more than 70 cities, may not be for everyone after all…. especially for service dogs.

The California chapter of the National Federation of the Blind filed a federal civil rights suit on Tuesday, alleging instances when blind Uber customers in California and other destinations were refused a ride by a Uber driver because they had a service dog with them.

Actually, the complaint alleges some pretty disrespectful behavior on the part of Uber drivers toward the blind. Among the allegations cited in California and other states are the following:

  • Drivers abandoning blind travelers in severe weather conditions
  • Drivers charging cancellation fees after refusing to pick  up their riders because of their service dogs.
  • In one incident, a California Uber driver allegedly put a service dog in the trunk and refused to pull over when his  blind customer figured out what had happened (seriously???).
  • One driver allegedly cursed at a blind rider when he attempted to tell him that his dog was not a pet but a service animal, and then took off abruptly, nearly injuring the dog and hitting the passenger’s friend with the car door.

All in all,  there have been more than 30 alleged incidents of  blind customers were denied rides. And as a result, Uber might just be in violation of the American with Disabilities Act as well as California state law.

The National Federation of the Blind is asking Uber to educate its drivers about disability rights and take action against those who violate those rights. They also want a way for disabled passengers to be able to register complaints immediately when they are refused rides because of their service dogs.

Uber issued a statement to the San Francisco Examiner, explaining that its policy is to terminate drivers who refuse to transport service animals, and that its service is meant to provide transportation options for all riders. But the company also allegedly told some passengers that it has no control over what its drivers do because they’re independent contractors.

California’s Public Utilities Commission seems to disagree. In September 2013, it classified Uber as a transportation provider because the app-based service functions like a taxi dispatch… and that would mean its drivers do not have the right to discriminate against the disabled.

What do you think? Do Uber drivers have a right to refuse passage to a rider? Or are they violating the rights of disabled travelers? Or should disabled or impaired riders let drivers know in advance that they have a service dog with them?

Share your thoughts!

Photo by Jason Tester Guerilla / CC BY