Two looks at riding Uber with a guide dog (and one thing you can do if a driver won't take you)

May 21, 2016 • Posted in blindness, Blogroll, careers/jobs for people who are blind, guest blog, guide dogs, Seeing Eye dogs, technology for people who are blind, travel, Uncategorized by

Two Safe & Sound blog followers who use guide dogs have contacted me describing very different experiences riding with Uber.


Kathy Austin and her guide dog Weller.

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!”

John Simonds On May 21, 2016 at 11:50 am

For fear of offending people’s sensibilities, will refrain from expressing my total disgust at Akwasi. He needs about a month of sensitivity training a new job at the Chicago Post Office.

bethfinke On May 21, 2016 at 12:28 pm

Ha! I’d suggest the downtown post office on Dearborn. He’d fit right in. But really, Ralph was worse — he took her voucher.


Brigitte On May 21, 2016 at 4:22 pm

I don’t ride Uber out of a sense of fairness. I use cabs where the drivers are vetted, and the same cab company that picked up my husband at Michael Reese hospital on December 31, 1978 in a snow storm after our daughter Anne was born. I’ll take Uber when requirements for cabbies and Uber drivers are level – medallions, tests, security checks. Abolish them for taxis or require them for Uber drivers, either way.

bethfinke On May 22, 2016 at 10:25 am

I agree with you, Brigitte. I won’t take Uber until requirements for cabbies and Uber drivers are level – medallions, tests, security checks.

Chicago cab drivers even have to take a class to teach them about different disabilities (and learn how guide dogs work) in order to be certified.

One thing I *disagree* with you on, Brigitte. You say the rules should be “Abolished for taxis or required for Uber drivers, either way.” I wouldn’t want them abolished. In my humble opinion this lawsuit the National Federation of the Blind won against Uber should have never been necessary -Uber and other ridesharing services should already be required to take people with guide dogs because the Americans with Disabilities Act says so.

All that said, I appreciated Kathy Austin’s point about giving Uber a chance to prove themselves. I was also very impressed with how Pam researched and found a place to have her problems with Uber documented.

For now, though, I’m sticking with registered Chicago cabs.

By any chance is the cab company that was so good to you and your family all those years ago called “Flash Cab”? That’s the one I use here in Chicago.


Carole Howard On May 22, 2016 at 9:59 am

My friend changed to LYFT because of Uber drivers and he has no visible disability.

bethfinke On May 22, 2016 at 10:53 am

Interesting. My brother Doug’s responsed to my previous post about Uber said that he and his wife use Lyft as well. What does Lyft do to vet drivers that Uber doesn’t, do you know?


Deborah Darsie On May 26, 2016 at 6:05 pm

I do not have a disability, but this makes me glad I have my own car here in the Puget Sound.
I have never tested their practices with my service dog in training pups in a cab, but I have done a bus ride with one.

Cricket had a fun ride from under my seat.
When a light changed and the bus slowed down, she slid forward while remaining in her down. She was so calm that she looked up at me and got some admiring looks from nearby passengers. She is partnered with a wonderful lady.

bethfinke On May 26, 2016 at 8:14 pm

I know of a woman who has a blog called “Cruisn with Cricket.” That’s not her, is it?


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