Two Safe & Sound blog followers who use guide dogs have contacted me describing very different experiences riding with Uber.
Kathy Austin is the Community Engagement Specialist at Second Sense, and she and her guide dog Weller use public transit to get to work every day. “Uber has been a Godsend for me since taxis in my neck of the woods are limited or nonexistent,” she said in a Second Opinions blog post she wrote in reaction to the Taking Uber with a guide dog: jury still out post I’d published here. ”Let’s give Uber a chance to prove they are working to accommodate people with service animals.”
A second blog follower who lives in Chicago emailed me with a different story. She wrote an email message saying that the first time she tried using Uber the driver wasn’t friendly and seemed to be bothered she had a guide dog with her. “But we did arrive @ our destination in a timely fashion…”.
The driver’s not-so-friendly attitude made Pam reluctant to try Uber a second time. But then she got an offer from Uber for a free ride (valued up to $15 — money talks!).
Pam requested a ride and was given an option to do a shared ride at a reduced rate. “That was helpful since the total price was more then the $15 free ride promotion.”
When Uber driver Akwasi was getting close, Pam sent a message letting him know she was blind and would be waiting outside with her guide dog. “I wanted him to know I needed him to say something out loud to let me know when he was here.” From Pam’s email:
Akwasi phoned me back and told me that he can’t take me because he has 2 passengers already. I told him that my dog doesn’t require much room at all, he will curl up on the floor at my feet. This is especially possible when I’m sitting in the front seat of a car, but Akwasi told me I’d have to sit in the back, so he was going to cancel my ride.
Uber charged Pam a $5 cancellation fee for the ride Akwasi cancelled. She still needed to get to her appointment, so she requested another ride, but this time she didn’t alert the driver about her guide dog. “That’s when Ralph the driver pulled up and told me I can’t ride Uber pool because it’s a shared ride and people are uncomfortable riding with dogs,” she said. “He told me that I can only ride regular Uber, but not the shared ride.”
Pam tried to explain to Ralph that she’d chosen the shared ride because it’d be less expensive, but he wouldn’t listen. “He kept repeating that other passengers aren’t comfortable riding with service animals and this is a shared ride and I need to use the regular Uber where I can ride alone.”
Ralph drove off without Pam and her dog, but he never cancelled her ride. “Instead he used my free ride voucher to get paid for a ride I never took to and from destinations that I’ve never been.”
Pam missed the appointment she’d been heading to and used that time to call Uber instead. From her email message:
Jake, the young man that phoned me says they will refund my $5 cancellation fee and take care of these matters, but I’m a bit concerned now. Are these drivers going to lose their jobs and come after me?! The world is a crazy place and these men know where I live. Should I be doing something more? Is there someone else that is documenting these situations?
Turns out there is someone documenting these situations. On Thursday Pam phoned Disability Rights Advocates and spoke to Julia Marks, one of the attorneys handling the lawsuit against Uber in California. “She was very receptive to my call and very interested in documenting all that transpired between myself & Uber,” Pam said.
In the end, I’m pretty sure Kathy Austin would agree with Pam’s summary: “The Uber settlement is a great start for us, but now we need to make sure it’s being enforced!”