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Uber, Lyft, and Service Animals: The Discrimination Continues

Monday, April 13, 2020

After three years of implementation and monitoring, the National Federation of the Blind’s settlement agreements with Uber and Lyft are set to expire this summer. Progress has been difficult to measure, and discrimination by rideshare drivers against travelers with service animals continues.

Indeed, travelers continue to encounter driver discrimination such as that experienced by Marion Gwizdala—where a driver refused to transport Marion with his service animal even though he and a bystander explained to the driver that Marion’s dog was a service animal and not a pet; the driver rolled up his car windows, locked the doors, and drove away while Marion’s hand was still on the car door handle, pulling him two to three feet.

And riders continue to encounter discrimination such as that experienced by Leslie Hamrick—where after Leslie entered an Uber with her ten-year-old son and her service animal, the driver asked Leslie to put her service animal in the trunk; when Leslie didn’t, the driver refused to depart and called the police. Though the police attempted to explain the difference between a service animal and a pet, the driver still would not transport Leslie, her son, and her service animal. Leslie’s son no longer wants to travel in an Uber or Lyft because of this terrible experience.

NFB’s rideshare testing program has identified that though riders report cases of Uber and Lyft drivers knowingly discriminating against travelers with service animals, Uber and Lyft continue to engage in a pattern of driver reeducation and multiple strikes, instead of the zero-strike driver termination policy for knowing denials as required in the settlement agreements.

NFB’s Year Three Lyft Testing Report further documents the reasons drivers give for not being able to transport riders with service animals, including allergies, a fear of dogs, and driving a car that does not belong to them. The report highlights new ways in which drivers attempt to bypass their legal obligations by canceling rides and telling Uber or Lyft that it was because they had a flat tire or had to get gas.

Because Uber and Lyft drivers continue to deny rides to travelers with service animals, we are preparing to return to court, and we need your assistance. You can help in two important ways. First, continue to report both successful rides and incidents of rideshare driver discrimination via the NFB’s Rideshare Survey, so we can objectively demonstrate changes on each platform. Second, contact Valerie Yingling at vyingling@nfb.org by April 17, 2020, so that she can help you prepare a signed statement, if any of the following apply to you:

  • A persistently substantial percentage of your rides result in overt discrimination by drivers when you notify them of the presence of your service animal
  • A significant number of your ride denials occur in sequence or across a brief period of time when drivers are made aware of the presence of your service animal
  • Uber or Lyft often responds by only warning drivers after you presented Uber or Lyft staff with compelling evidence of the driver’s knowing denial because of your service animal
  • Uber or Lyft often lets drivers off with a warning without interviewing one or more witnesses whose contact information was provided to staff in support of a knowing denial
  • Drivers seemed unaware of their legal obligations due to language barriers
  • You find it difficult to easily obtain information about a driver who cancels before starting a trip
  • You have changed your frequency of submitting service animal-related complaints to Uber or experience other frustration with the amount of effort needed to submit complaints

Thank you for continuing to support the NFB’s efforts to eliminate Uber and Lyft driver discrimination and to ensure that all travelers with service animals can live the life we want.

For more information about the NFB’s Uber and Lyft testing program and testing data, visit our Uber and Lyft information page or contact Valerie Yingling at vyingling@nfb.org

—Valerie Yingling

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