Uber: Blind to the Disabled?

August 2, 2016

Uber: It’s a brand name that has become renowned across the world. The company is known for offering cheap and convenient rides across major cities.

But is that what it really does?

Certainly, the tech company Uber is a valuable commodity— both in terms of its financial success and its user benefits. It works by connecting passengers with drivers using GPS, highlighting their respective locations and conveniently cancelling out the need to wait. Uber also processes all payments, thus removing the need for either passenger or driver to deal with such fiddly requirements. The best part? The driver keeps a percentage of the fee. In addition to convenience, these operations add to the slickness of the process, increasing speed and boosting profits.

What’s the catch? There’s one group that doesn’t appear to be benefitting: the disabled.

The disabled have consistently encountered discrimination and unpleasant behavior from Uber drivers. Blind people have reported having been repeatedly refused rides because their drivers won’t take their guide dogs. Wheelchair users have suffered discrimination when drivers refuse to load their only means of transport. Such humiliations have resulted in a string of lawsuits against Uber that have tested the Americans with Disabilities Act. For example, in April this year the National Federation of the Blind reached a settlement agreement with Uber.

Uber attracts a diverse range of drivers as the company only which only requires employees to receive a DMV and background check. This has, unsurprisingly, resulted in the failure to ensure a comprehensive anti-discrimination policy. Now that some unpleasant incidents have been highlighted (including one where a blind passenger’s guide dog was forced into a trunk)—Uber has agreed to implement a companywide policy to ensure that drivers are obliged to transport passengers with their service animals. Notably, in response to the outrage and lost lawsuits, Uber has also finally begun to provide rides specifically for people with disabilities.

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