Uber denied service to blind passengers, put a guide dog in the trunk of a car, lawsuit alleges

On Wednesday a blind author and the National Federation of the Blind filed a suit against the ride-share company

Published September 11, 2014 5:35PM (EDT)

 Sad dog      (<a href='http://www.shutterstock.com/gallery-540553p1.html'>Funny Solution Studio</a> via <a href='http://www.shutterstock.com/'>Shutterstock</a>)
Sad dog (Funny Solution Studio via Shutterstock)

The ride-share company Uber is being sued for discriminating against the blind -- denying rides to blind passengers with service dogs, harassing owners and mistreating guide dogs.

On Tuesday, the National Federation of the Blind, along with a blind author, Michael Hingson, filed the complaint in federal court in San Francisco, the San Francisco Examiner reported.

The lawsuit alleges that there have been around 30 reported instances where UberX drivers have denied rides to a blind person with a service animal, and on one occasion a driver placed a service dog in the trunk of a car. It also states that the plaintiffs -- the National Federation of the Blind and Michael Hingson -- attempted to resolve the complaints against Uber outside of court, but were unable to do so.

The complaint alleges that the practices of Uber drivers violate the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the California state Unruh Civil Rights Act and Disabled Persons Act; it asks that Uber Technologies Inc. take action to prevent drivers from discriminating against blind customers with service dogs.

Uber is an app-based, ride-share company that connects would-be passengers with drivers free in their area. It brands itself as a novel way for its network of thousands of independent drivers to make money, and as an alternative to traditional taxis. Uber is valued at $18 billion, according to Forbes.

However, the true nature of the capitalistic and ruthless company has emerged. It has tangled with the law on many occasions, used ruthless tactics to take down competitors, cut wages for driversskirts regulations and has been banned in Germany.

In response to the allegations, Uber stated that the company "deactivates" drivers from the network if they refuse to transport riders with service animals. They also have tools for visually impaired passengers.

"The Uber app is built to expand access to transportation options for all, including users with visual impairments and other disabilities," Uber said in a statement to Salon. "It is Uber’s policy that any driver partner that refuses to transport a service animal will be deactivated from the Uber platform."

However, it is unclear whether drivers receive specific instruction about complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The president of the National Federation of the Blind of California, Mary Willows released a statement stating: "Our right to independent travel is unjustly jeopardized when Uber drivers refuse to transport or harass blind customers due to the presence of their service animals."

By Sarah Gray

Sarah Gray is an assistant editor at Salon, focusing on innovation. Follow @sarahhhgray or email sgray@salon.com.

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Discrimination National Federation Of The Blind Service Dog Silicon Valley Tech Uber Uber Driver