Kai @kai.owens is blind and has never been able to drive, so services like Uber and Lyft have the potential to give him freedom. Their apps are accessible with his iPhone’s accessibility settings and the idea of catching a ride at will gives him a sense of freedom. Unfortunately, these services often marginalize the very communities that could most benefit from their services.
(Picture description: Kai stands with his German Shepherd guide dog named Pride)
Recently, a driver told Kai, “I think you should carry a blanket to place on the floor under your dog, so I don’t have to deal with the dog hair.” ADA law protects guide dog access. If dog hair is the concern, rideshare drivers should consider carrying a blanket or lint brush to protect the floorboards and interior from dog hair. But what’s worse is that some drivers flat-out refuse service causing frustration, tardiness, and danger.
Kai lives about three hours away from home on his college campus. He called me one day to vent, saying, “I used the Uber app to request a ride to a doctor’s appointment. The app said it would be a fifteen-minute wait, so I sat down and waited near my pickup location. When the driver arrived, they messaged me saying that they could not find me. So, I called the driver and gave them a better idea of my location.”
Then the driver asked, “Is that you in the grey shirt?”
He said, “Yes.”
Then she asked, “With the dog?”
He said, “Yes.”
The driver pulled up slowly along the sidewalk next to him, then kept rolling forward. At first, he hoped that she had just pulled up further looking for a safe place to stop, but then she hung up the call and cancelled his ride.
Uber has stranded him before, but this felt more personal because the driver acknowledged seeing him, then canceled while talking to him. It deeply affected him. He expressed anger and hurt over the overt discrimination and ableism.
He booked a new ride and the App said it would be a twenty-two-minute wait. He used that time to contact the doctor’s office to let them know that he’d be late. They told him if he was more than fifteen minutes late they’d need to reschedule his appointment and he’d receive a last-minute cancellation fee. He explained the full situation and they waived their policies and said they’d do their best to work him in upon arrival. Next, he messaged the Uber helpline through their app. Uber sent him a response that read, “What you’ve reported is extremely concerning, and we’ll do everything to help. Discrimination is never allowed on the Uber platform. We see you’ve reached out via email and in-app about this issue and a member of our team will be following up as soon as possible. We appreciate your patience.”
We posted about Kai’s Uber experience on our social media platforms. Many blind individuals and guide dog handlers responded by sharing their rideshare access and denial experiences. In Kai’s situation, Uber refunded his ride that day, but never addressed the larger issues related to access and ADA law.Continue reading “What to do if a rideshare service denies access to you and/or your guide dog.”