A legally blind woman is speaking out against Uber after a driver denied her a ride because she was traveling with a service dog.
Mollie Baland has a rare eye condition that doesn’t allow her to see things unless they are very close to her, she told Denver news station KMGH. Baland, a student at Regis University in Denver, has a guide dog, Ferris, to help her navigate.
When she was getting ready to go to class on Thursday, she decided to hire an Uber driver to make traveling easier.
“The past few days Ferris and I have had a little trouble with the ice, slipping around, so I was like, ‘I’ll just order an Uber today and pay the half-mile to go to campus,'” she told the news outlet.
But when the driver pulled up and saw Baland with Ferris, she said he refused to let them into the car.
“The driver rolls his window down, and he says, ‘I can’t have a dog in here,'” she told KMGH. “And I said, ‘Well, technically under Uber’s policy you can’t deny me because Ferris is my guide dog. If it makes you feel any better, I have a certificate to prove that he is a guide dog.’ And the driver did not say anything. He just drove away.”
And when Baland reported the issue to the ride-hailing service, she said she was told that the company would deactivate the driver’s account only if it received a second report. Instead, she walked to class in a snowstorm, KMGH reported.
According to Uber’s website, “State and federal law prohibit driver-partners using the Uber Driver App from denying service to riders with service animals because of the service animals, and from otherwise discriminating against riders with service animals.”
The company policy states that “driver-partners who engage in discriminatory conduct in violation of this legal obligation will lose their ability to use the Driver App.”
However, Baland said this is not how her case was treated.
“I’m very upset with how Uber handled the situation. The guy was only given a warning,” she told KMGH. “I am resilient. I just don’t want this to happen to other people.”
Uber issued a statement to Yahoo Lifestyle regarding Baland’s ride issue.
“We are deeply upset by this rider’s experience and have been in touch with both parties and have taken appropriate action. Drivers who use the Uber app agree to accommodate riders with service animals and comply with their independent obligations under accessibility laws.”
This isn’t the first time Uber has fallen under scrutiny for accessibility issues. The company settled a lawsuit with the National Federation of the Blind in 2016 after the organization accused it of discriminating against blind riders.
As part of the settlement, the company “agreed to take steps to make clear to drivers using Uber that they are obligated to transport … any passenger with a service animal,” according to its website.
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