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Uber faces lawsuit for denying rides to woman with service animal

The ridesharing company is facing more trouble over accessibility.
Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
March 20, 2018
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Uber is facing still more legal trouble over its accessibility issues. Texas resident D'Edra Steele has sued the ridesharing company for allegedly denying her 25 rides due to the service dog she needs for her cerebral palsy. Reportedly, drivers would either give excuses (such as a lack of blankets or dog allergies) or would even speed off the moment they saw Steele's companion animal. Steele also had to deal with "disparaging" remarks some of the times she did get rides.

Steele also alleges that Uber didn't do enough to address her concerns. It would acknowledge formal complaints, educate drivers and give her $5 credits, but didn't follow up as promised -- it even claimed to have spoken with Steele on the phone when the call never happened. The repeated rejection was enough to prompt mental health treatment and a visit to the hospital.

We've asked Uber for comment on the lawsuit. This is more a question of the company's ability to enforce its policies than anything, however. The firm has a clear service animal policy warning drivers that they're legally obligated to accept passengers with service animals, regardless of their rationale (including allergies). Uber is supposed to remove drivers from the service if they refuse trips from more than one passenger with a service animal, but that doesn't help if a customer runs into numerous drivers all exhibiting the same discriminatory behavior.

Uber definitely isn't the only company facing complaints about accessibility -- Lyft has faced lawsuits as well. As such, this incident is as emblematic of problems with ridesharing at large as it is any issues with Uber itself. While the companies routinely accessibility, their drivers and vehicles are only sometimes prepared for the responsibility.

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