Uber has been ordered to pay $1.1 million or £795,000 to a visually impaired woman who said she was refused rides on 14 occasions.
Uber hit with discrimination lawsuit
The woman, Lisa Irving, said that on some occasions, drivers were even verbally abusive and harassed her about transporting her guide dog, Bernie, in the car.
One driver even allegedly cut her trip short after falsely claiming that they have arrived at her destination. An independent arbitrator ruled that Uber's drivers had illegally discriminated against her because of her condition.
The arbitrator rejected Uber's claim that the company itself was not liable, because it argued that its drivers had the status of contractors rather than employees, as reported by CNN.
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Irving, who is from San Francisco, stated that she had worried about her safety after she was stranded multiple times late at night because she was rejected by drivers. She also alleged that canceled rides also led to her being late for work, which contributed to her being fired from her job.
The behaviors from drivers continued despite her complaining to Uber, she said.
A spokesman for Irving stated that of all Americans who should be liberated by the rideshare revolution, the blind and the visually impaired are among those who should benefit the most.
The spokesman added that the bottom line is that under the Americans with Disabilities Act, a guide dog should be able to go anywhere that a blind person can go.
In a statement that was issued to the media following the ruling, a spokesman for Uber stated that the company is proud of the help that it offers blind passengers.
The spokesman for Uber added that drivers using the Uber app are expected to serve riders with service animals and to comply with accessibility and other laws, and they regularly provide education to drivers on that responsibility. He added that their dedicated team looks into each complaint and takes action.
Irving told the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper that she is sorry that it came to this and that she would have preferred that her civil rights be respected. But it sends a strong message that this is behavior is not acceptable.
This is not the first time that Uber has faced a legal battle from the visually impaired community. Back in 2014, The National Federation of the Blind in the US sued the ride-sharing app over guide-dog regulations.
According to The Verge, the lawsuit was settled in 2017 when Uber agreed to ensure that its drivers knew that they were legally obligated to provide service to those with guide dogs.
Uber paid $225,000 to the National Federation of the Blind to settle the lawsuit alleging discrimination against blind riders. The court also required Uber to notify drivers that they must give transport to customers with service animals.
Should a driver break the policy, Uber stated that it will deactivate their account. To ensure the settlement is being followed, the National Federation of the Blind will have visually impaired customers take test rides.
The company said in its statement that their goal at Uber is to make transportation options more accessible to all individuals, including those who are visually impaired, those who have low-vision or have other disabilities.
Uber stated that they are committed to continuing to create technological solutions that support everyone's ability to easily move around their communities.
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Written by Sieeka Khan