Ride-shar­ing ser­vice has new plan to stop il­le­gal re­fusals

Ottawa Sun - - NEWS - MEGAN GILLIS

Cana­dian Uber driv­ers got both an email and an in-app no­ti­fi­ca­tion Tues­day warn­ing that it’s against the law to deny rides to peo­ple who use ser­vice an­i­mals and that do­ing so will get them kicked off the ride-shar­ing plat­form.

“It’s a step in the right di­rec­tion,” said Kevin Frost, who is legally deaf and blind and who had re­peated prob­lems last month while trav­el­ling with his guide dog, Lewis, around Ot­tawa.

Uber said that as part of its new ser­vice an­i­mal pol­icy and com­mu­ni­ca­tions pro­to­col, which is ef­fec­tive im­me­di­ately, driv­ers must read and ac­cept the pol­icy in order to keep driv­ing. If a driver is con­firmed to have re­fused ser­vice to some­one with a ser­vice an­i­mal, they’ll lose ac­cess to Uber’s plat­form.

“Cana­dian laws pro­hibit driver-part­ners from dis­crim­i­nat­ing against rid­ers with ser­vice an­i­mals,“Uber’s On­tario gen­eral man­ager Shel­don McCormick said in a news re­lease. ”Ad­di­tion­ally, Uber’s non-dis­crim­i­na­tion pol­icy clearly states that those who en­gage in dis­crim­i­na­tory con­duct — in­clud­ing de­lib­er­ately deny­ing ser­vice to those with ser­vice an­i­mals — will lose their abil­ity to use Uber’s driver app.“

Yet, “we know from hear­ing from mem­bers of the vis­ually im­paired com­mu­nity that too of­ten rideshar­ing ser­vice is be­ing de­nied,” McCormick said.

“To ad­dress this is­sue, we are launch­ing a new ser­vice an­i­mal pol­icy, as well as es­tab­lish­ing a new com­mu­ni­ca­tions pro­to­col with our driver­part­ners to make sure rid­ers with ser­vice an­i­mals are treated with the re­spect they de­serve and re­ceive the ser­vice they are en­ti­tled to.”

Frost told this news­pa­per about three in­ci­dents last month.

First, a driver can­celled the fare and sim­ply drove off af­ter ar­riv­ing to pick him up and spot­ting Lewis by his side. Frost com­plained to Uber and the com­pany as­sured him it wouldn’t hap­pen again and that the driver was no longer with the ride ser­vice. But twice af­ter that, Frost had to ex­plain the law un­til the driver agreed to take him to his des­ti­na­tion

In On­tario, ser­vice dog users are pro­tected un­der leg­is­la­tion in­clud­ing the Blind Per­sons’ Rights Act, the On­tario Hu­man Rights Code and the Ac­ces­si­bil­ity for On­tar­i­ans with Dis­abil­i­ties Act. Frost car­ries a gov­ern­ment-is­sued ID for him­self and Lewis.

Frost said he’s still hop­ing for a writ­ten and ver­bal apol­ogy from Uber and to be taken up on his of­fer to help ed­u­cate driv­ers. He also hopes the mes­sage will be re­peated in fu­ture news bul­letins to driv­ers.

“Free ed­u­ca­tion will give guide dog users a peace of mind on trav­el­ing any­where they can go,” Frost said.

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