Uber Faces Lawsuit Over Drivers Allegedly Discriminating Against Blind Passengers
The ultra-popular, rapidly expanding ride-hailing service Uber was hit with a lawsuit last week alleging that its drivers had discriminated against blind passengers and mistreated their guide dogs.
The complaint, filed on behalf of the California Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind on Tuesday, alleges that in at least 30 separate instances, visually impaired members with guide dogs have been refused service. The complaint argues that the behavior of Uber X drivers violates both California state law and basic rights of equal access guaranteed under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, passed more than two decades ago.
One plaintiff, Leena Dawes, said she had an UberX driver “forced” her guide dog into the closed trunk of the sedan. Allegedly, Dawes “pleaded” the driver to stop driving so she could get her dog, but the driver refused to pull over, according to the report.
The alleged cases of discrimination all involve Uber’s UberX service. The service, which the complaint praises as “highly cost-effective and widely available,” uses a mobile app to connect unprofessional drivers with passengers.
The plaintiff for the lawsuit is Michael Hingson, a member of the National Federation of the blind in California. He is a public speaker and author who has used a guide dog for decades.
Uber says that any drivers who are proven to be guilty of the actions alleged in the complaint will be removed from the service. “The Uber app is built to expand access to transportation options for all, including users with visual impairments and other disabilities,” the company said in an emailed statement. “It is Uber’s policy that any driver partner that refuses to transport a service animal will be deactivated from the Uber platform.”
Uber does have functionality within its app for the visually impaired. For example, the Uber app works with VoiceOver, an Apple technology that reads out loud what a user is touching on the screen.
Catherine Clifford is senior entrepreneurship writer at CNBC. She was formerly a senior writer at Entrepreneur.com, the small business reporter at CNNMoney and an assistant in the New York bureau for CNN. Clifford attended Columbia University where she earned a bachelor's degree. She lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. You can follow her on Twitter at @CatClifford.