It’s easy, you might think, for someone who’s blind and uses a guide dog to get noticed. I mean, how could you not be attracted by a confident traveler with a cute canine by his side? The problem, though, is not everyone is so attracted.
One of the most frustrating things guide dog users receive is denial of service by cab or Uber drivers who do not wish to pick someone up who has a service animal. Despite such denial of service is blatantly illegal, it’s also rude. If an Uber driver commits to transporting someone, having already been paid via the Uber app, fulfilling that commitment makes perfect sense.
After all, anyone driving transportation needs to be signed to a contract that permits no discrimination of anyone based on their disability. So it stands to reason that, in effect, the guide dog is an extension of that person. Someone driving a cab or Uber or paratransit vehicle already knows that they will deal with animal fur, occasional cute eye rolls and sighs from the back seat.
Linked here is a survey that the American Council of the Blind is helping to promote. If you have been or if you do get denied service by a cab or Uber or other ride sharing operation and you have a guide dog, make your concerns known.
With that said, we as advocates for our dignity and awareness do well to remember that kindness and documentation is key. Yes, we may be very upset or frustrated when receiving denied ridership. Yet, as the problem has arisen over a long time, the solution won’t appear overnight and we aren’t each given to save the world. Instead, when addressing companies or individual drivers, we do so confident of our character, assured of our rights but resisting the urge to vent our bluster on the offending party. Rather, each denial of service, each level of escalation with a given cab or paratransit company may be an opportunity to show the composure we want everyone in mainstream society to see in us as people who are blind or who have low-vision.
Again, take the opportunity if you have encountered denial of service to you as a guide dog user. And, if you yourself do not have a guide dog, encourage those who do in their travel and dignity. If you are sighted, watch for us who follow our guides across streets, into stores, into restaurants and to work. Engage us with questions so you can be better informed and at ease. And, remember our dogs are working any time they are in their harness!
For more information about guide dogs and their use in public, go to http://www.gdui.org.