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Blind Man Denied Service From Uber Over Guide Dog

Matthew Dierckens says Uber’s refusal to transport him with his guide dog is discriminatory and frustrating.

A Windsor man who has no vision is advocating for increased awareness after he and his guide dog were rejected service by three Uber drivers over the past year.

“It’s 2016, this shouldn’t be happening,” Matthew Dierckens said after being denied service for the second time this month on July 8, “We shouldn’t have this problem, it’s discrimination and it’s frustrating.

On Saturday morning, Uber Canada apologized to Dierckens and said that the denial of service was not OK.

Uber’s online legal guide says that all drivers must adhere to local laws governing the transportation of riders with disabilities. The website states that reports of refusing to transport a rider with a service animal will lead to deactivation of an Uber account.

In order to get around the city, Dierckens relies on his guide dog Marilyn. On Friday, just before noon, he and his sister ordered an Uber to run some errands and avoid the heat.

When the driver arrived, he asked Dierckens if he was planning on bringing his guide dog into the car. Dierckens said yes and asked him if there was a problem; the driver mumbled something incoherent and said he would not take them, Dierckens said.

His sister was also charged a $5 cancellation fee, which was refunded over the weekend. Drivers need more education about how to accommodate service animals and passengers with disabilities, said Dierckens.

Earlier this year, in the United States, the National Federation of the Blind recently settled a lawsuit with Uber.

Uber agreed to take affirmative steps to prevent discrimination against blind riders who use guide dogs.

The online transportation company also agreed on making it a requirement that existing and new drivers confirm that they understand their legal obligations to transport riders with service animals. The Canadian Federation of the Blind will be pushing for the agreements to also be applicable in Canada, said Mary Ellen Gabias, president at the federation.

Gabias said it’s a common issue in Canada that those using service animals are denied access to Ubers and cabs because drivers refuse to take them.

“It tends to happen when drivers aren’t educated about the law,” said Gabias. “Specific education about non-discrimination and finding a way to make it stick is really important.

After speaking to a few new Uber drivers, Dierckens said each told him they never received any training regarding service animals and disabled passengers.

“The main thing I want is education of the drivers,” he said. “The drivers need to understand their legal obligations and how to treat service animals.”

“I even wrote to Uber Canada on Twitter and said I’m willing to work with you guys, and have a training seminar, about what to do and what not to do.”

Dierckens, who ended up taking a bus on Friday with his sister, said that generally his experience with Uber has been pleasant but that occurrences like these are frustrating and that they need to be tackled.

Uber Canada could not be reached for comment Sunday.

Miriam Katawazi

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