Uber takes action for ADA violations

Southside Matt

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Uber LogoUber

Every three months, Uber sends an email to its drivers reminding them of their responsibilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Specifically, it warns that, while drivers may not like having passengers with pets in their vehicles, as a transportation service the ADA prohibits drivers from refusing a ride based solely on the fact that a passenger has a service animal. Because of the personal nature of disabilities that may require service animals, the ADA does not require that the animals be certified or identified in any way.

Even though identification is not required, once a service animal is identified, the ADA prohibits discrimination against the owner such as refusal of service or entry.

Uber even includes this fact within the Community Guidelines by which drivers agree to abide by using their Uber Driver app or by accepting a trip. Among the offenses that can result in the loss of access to Uber accounts, both as a driver and as a rider, is “(k)nowingly refusing a rider a trip because of their service animal.”

Such an incident occurred on September 25 at LaGuardia Airport in New York. A passenger who had just flown cross-country to attend a memorial service had brought her service dog, Theodore, with her due to extreme anxiety issues. Jenn Bethune, the wife and mother of redwhiteandbethune.com, had arranged for an Uber ride from the airport to her hotel.

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Theodore Calming JennJenn Bethune

When the driver arrived and noticed Theodore, who was decked out in his uniform service animal vest, complete with patches identifying his certifications, the driver immediately told Ms. Bethune that Theodore was not welcome. Against her protest and citation of Theodore’s credentials, as well as a recitation of the ADA, the driver still refused to accept Ms. Bethune as a passenger so long as Theodore was going to be traveling with her.

Ms. Bethune felt further humiliated as other travelers who witnessed the event laughed at her predicament. The circumstances surrounding her trip only added to the emotion of the incident.

Attributing it to a lack of education to the public, she went on to cite other examples of incidents that have occurred to her and Theodore. “There’s been embarrassing moments in restaurants with patrons and employees alike. People in stores overheard saying, ‘I wish I could put a vest on my dog and take it everywhere like she does.’”

Ms. Bethune went on to say that, as people do not educate themselves, “What a lot of people don’t understand is that these dogs are our lifelines. They are our safety net so that we can go out into the world and live somewhat normal lives again.” “Invisible” conditions such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and anxiety often get overlooked despite being “as real as any other medical condition.”

Some organizations – Ms. Bethune referenced experiences at Disney’s parks – do recognize the issues, though, and train their staffs appropriately. “The employees of Disney are absolutely amazing, though. They educate them extremely well.”

When reports of incidents such as Ms. Bethune’s are received, Uber investigates the matter and takes action where the facts support the claim. In cases such as Ms. Bethune’s where the complaint is substantiated, the driver’s access to both the Uber Driver and Uber Rider apps are withdrawn. After all, the driver, by accepting trips, agrees to abide by the Community Guidelines. To support those Guidelines, drivers are required to watch a series of videos, including one describing requirements to accept service animals under the ADA, before they are allowed to provide service to Uber riders.

The ADA and its components are vital to ensuring that all persons with disabilities or handicaps, regardless of what those may be or how “visible” they may be to bystanders, are able to cope in society. The Act provides for measures that even the playing field and bring equality for those who struggle just to make it through life.

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Woman Suffering AnxietyDepositPhotos.com

As 26% of Americans have some sort of disability, it is imperative that the country and its people recognize any and all of these disabilities. This includes recognizing and accepting the measures that are taken to provide normal lives for these.

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Hailing from the Great State of Texas, South Side Matt monitors government for compliance with the Constitutional values that founded the United States, and works to maintain liberty for all in that spirit. His articles focus on furthering this cause, but also occasionally go "off track" into lighter topics such as cooking, general life and others.

Fort Worth, TX
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