Uber to educate drivers who cancel jobs with service dogs – Stuff


Rideshare companies are required by law to accept service dogs, but Dr Sally Britnell and her four-legged assistant Sienna are no stranger to being left on the side of the road.
The senior lecturer at Auckland University of Technology, who has low vision, said half the time an Uber or taxi driver would cancel or refuse to take a person with a service dog.
Public transport and taxi and rideshare companies must accept service dogs under the Human Rights Act and the Dog Control Act.
Britnell ordered an Uber last weekend and the driver was aware she had a dog with her.
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He messaged her saying he was about 20 minutes away as he wasn’t on the North Shore and should he cancel, despite the Uber tracking app showing him to be just 1km away.
“I can see enough out of the visual field I have left to see that he was less than 1km away and definitely on the North Shore. I messaged back saying ‘on the map it shows you 1km away at …’, to which he answered ‘traffic’.
“I said no that I was happy to wait. It took him less than five minutes to arrive, but before he pulled up he messaged ‘cancel?’ again.
He reluctantly let Sienna sit in the foot well, after initially asking her to go in the boot.
“While I was getting out of the car at home, he walked around to the boot, no talking or anything and pulled out a dust buster and as soon as we stepped away started cleaning.
“There are multiple people in the blind community who have similar issues, but I don’t say much.”
If driver cancelled a ride, a new car was automatically dispatched, but people could be left waiting to be picked up for up to 90 minutes, especially during the busy times in Auckland, she said.
“Often this happens three times before a car is willing to take us.”
Epileptic woman Nina Gellert was verbally abused and refused by an Uber driver because of her service dog, Val, in July.
Blind Low Vision NZ head of access and awareness, Dan Shepherd, said it as aware of an increasing number of people with guide dogs being refused rides with Uber.
“It is very disappointing that our clients and their Guide Dogs are still experiencing barriers to accessing their communities with transport providers in New Zealand, in 2022.
“We hope that Uber and other rideshare providers will listen and remove these barriers preventing our community from living a life without limits.”
An Uber spokesperson said the company was aware of service animal refusal in its company.
“Uber continues to develop strong policies to prevent this from happening, but for these policies to be effective, and so we can continually improve them, it’s important that riders report instances of service animal refusals to us,” she said.
Its aim was to always educate driver-partners in relation to assistance animals when they sign up to the app, through specific education modules, and then on a regular, ongoing basis.
It had also developed the service assistance program, to improve the experience for people with a service animal, including an exclusive phone number for program participants and specially trained Uber agents who will recognise that the caller has a service animal, proactive service refusal monitoring and driver education.
“The service assistance program is the result of direct engagement between Uber New Zealand and members of the blind and low vision community who wanted us to take a more proactive approach.
“This initiative invites riders with an assistance animal to voluntarily opt in to access features that are designed to improve their experience on the platform. This program is a first for Uber, and it will evolve over time in line with feedback received from the blind and low vision community.”
Britnell, is a member of the program and informs the company about every ride refusal she has and said it was “very responsive”.
However, she wondered if the issue was broader than a policy around service animals, but related to everyday exposure and knowledge of disability and access needs in society.
“The majority of people I encounter do not know about disability or access needs,” she said.
© 2022 Stuff Limited

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