Blind Woman Sues Uber After Drivers Reject Her Service Dog
Woman Claims Disability Rights Include Her Service Dog
A blind Arlington woman is accusing ride-sharing company Uber of violating her rights as a disabled person after at least two of its drivers refused to transport her and her service dog.
Her lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia says Uber drivers violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Virginians With Disabilities Act.
In one incident mentioned in the 29-page lawsuit, Tiffany Jolliff says she was holding the door handle of an UberX driver’s car when he realized she was traveling with her labrador retriever service dog. The driver allegedly shouted that dog is not allowed in the car and pulled away, knocking Jolliff to the ground and dragging her several feet.
She was treated at a hospital for a sprained shoulder, which compelled her to miss nearly a week of work as a Labor Department policy specialist on disabled workers’ rights, the lawsuit says.
On at least two other occasions, Uber drivers refused her service when they discovered she was accompanied by her service dog named Railey, says the lawsuit filed by attorney Deepa Goraya, from the the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs.
Federal law requires Uber to treat blind customers equally and accommodate their service animals, said Peter Romer-Friedman, deputy director of litigation for the Washington Lawyers’ Committee. Uber cannot build its business model around flouting laws that protect consumers or workers.
The lawsuit, filed as Jolliff v. Uber Technologies, Inc., says the Americans with Disabilities Act’s ban on discriminating against disabled persons in public accommodations includes discrimination in taxi services and other transportation.
Uber officials said each of its drivers is required to sign a code of conduct, which says service animals must be accommodated to comply with accessibility laws.
Uber’s transportation services include UberX, in which drivers transport customers in their own cars after being summoned through an Internet app, and UberPool, in which drivers pick up multiple passengers and transport them to various locations.
Jolliff’s lawsuit seeks an amount of damages to be determined at trial and a court order requiring new program for Uber to train its drivers on their legal obligations to transport passengers with service dogs. The suit also asks the court to order Uber to periodically remind its drivers about their ADA obligations and to improve its complaint process.
The lawsuit was filed at a time the Washington Metro transit system is considering partnerships with Uber and its competitor Lyft to take over its MetroAccess, a paratransit service for elderly and disabled customers.
The partnership is opposed by a majority of the Montgomery County Council, which recently sent a letter to Metro General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld saying Uber and its competitors do not adequately accommodate disabled passengers. The letter said Uber lacked enough wheelchair-accessible vehicles and proper training of its drivers.