It’s worrying that we are still seeing many cases of people being refused service because they have an assistance animal such as a guide dog. This problem is generally due to a lack of knowledge and could be resolved if more companies provided staff with disability awareness training. It should be a standard part of any employee induction training and would enable staff to provide service and interact with people with disabilities in the appropriate manner. Not to mention reducing the risk of a complaint being lodged with the Human Rights Commission.
Here is the latest case to hit the media and involves former Disability Discrimination Commissioner Graeme Innes.
Disability activist complains to Human Rights Commission after Uber drivers refuse to take guide dog
Former disability discrimination commissioner Graeme Innes has lodged a complaint with the Human Rights Commission after two Uber drivers refused to accept his guide dog in Sydney.
And while Mr Innes has since said he will withdraw the complaint after Uber told him they had disciplined the drivers, the matter is another blow to the popular ride-sharing company.
Uber has faced mounting criticism from disability advocacy groups over its accessibility.
Mr Innes, who is vision impaired and assisted by his guide dog, said he ordered an Uber cab in March to pick up his daughter from hospital but the driver refused to transport the guide dog.
“The driver explained that he had a new car and he didn’t want to take animals in the car,” Mr Innes said.
“I told him that this was a guide dog and that it was a requirement but he refused to take us.”
Mr Innes then ordered a second Uber cab but again ran into problems.
“By that time I was feeling really frustrated because I wanted to pick up my daughter, “Mr Innes said.
“So when the car arrived, I got in the car and the driver yelled a lot. He finally agreed to take me but he drove in a pretty scary manner.”
Mr Innes said he felt “sick in the stomach” and disempowered by the incidents.
Mr Innes complained to Uber about the incidents. He then lodged a complaint with the Human Rights Commission.
Since then, Uber contacted Mr Innes and told him that they had disciplined the two drivers. His fare was also refunded.
On its website, Uber states that it “expects driver-partners to accommodate service animals in compliance with accessibility laws”.
Drivers who flout the law face being banned from driving again.
“Whilst it wasn’t a good thing that happened at the time, I’m pretty happy with their response to it,” Mr Innes said.
While Uber’s final response was still being negotiated, Mr Innes said he would withdraw his complaint to the Human Rights Commission.
A Guide Dogs Victoria survey, released in April last year, revealed that two-thirds of vision impaired people with guide dogs had faced discrimination.
Taxis and cafes were the biggest culprits, with taxi drivers either refusing or questioning handlers 46 per cent of the time.
Disability Awareness Training Can Only Help
At the time, Guide Dogs Victoria chief executive Karen Hayes said a lack of education was often the reason why drivers refused a fare. She added that the unfair treatment was having a big impact on vision-impaired people.
“As a community, we need to recognise how important these loyal and hardworking animals are to their vision impaired handlers, and that they have equal access rights like the rest of us,” she said.
“Some have even thought twice about taking their guide dog with them, which puts them in danger,” she said.
The organisation launched a public transport education campaign last year.
Under state law, guide dogs are allowed in all private and public areas with the exception of zoos and hospital operating theatres.
Despite efforts to educate people, Mr Innes said more was needed to stamp out discrimination.
“That’s why I lodged the complaint because I was determined to see that these drivers were disciplined and they have been,” he said.
Mr Innes said he had also been refused fares from taxi drivers in the past.
Last month, 13 disability groups jointly made a plea to Transport Minister Jacinta Allan to not legalise Uber unless it made a legally binding commitment to serve passengers in wheelchairs.
The groups warn that if Uber is allowed to become more dominant in the market it will inevitably lure many drivers of wheelchair-accessible taxis to its business, leaving people with disabilities stranded which, the group claimed, has happened in San Francisco.
This story has been taken from an article written by Alana Schetzer. Original source can be found on the link below.