Disabled Woman Says Uber Driver Refused Service Due To Service Animal

Ride-sharing services like Uber have changed the way we all get around when we don’t have a set of wheels.

For people with disabilities, the service has been a huge lifeline to help them get around.

A Pantego woman says her lifeline was cut when an Uber driver left her standing on the curb in the pouring rain due to a disagreement over her service dog.

Donna Mack was born two and half months premature with a visual impairment.

"I could read newsprint, but have to hold it really close," she said. 

At 12, she lost her vision entirely, but now runs a business, cares for her family and says getting around town has gotten much easier thanks to the the ride-sharing platform Uber.

A few weeks ago she had a business meeting and ordered an Uber to take her there. She reached out to the driver before he arrived.

"It was pouring rain. I told him about my disability, my dog was in a harness, she guided me from my front door to my driveway where he was waiting and he said the dog needs to get in the back," said Mack. 

"I said 'yeah no problem. We’re both going to get in the back.'"

She says the driver corrected her saying the dog would sit in the back and she would sit in the front.

"I was like 'really it’s ok' and then he said 'no the dog needs to go in the trunk.' I was just blown away and said, 'sir, that’s illegal.'"

She says without words she heard the car speed off.

Right on Uber’s website is a service dog policy that says:

"If Uber determines that a driver-partner knowingly refused to transport a rider with a service animal because of the service animal, the driver-partner will be permanently prevented from using the Driver App."

Mack filed a complaint with Uber. She was confident she and her service dog Wella were refused service, because of Wella. But an email from Uber said their driver was provided additional information regarding legal obligations and should we receive a second report of this nature their account may be subject to permanent deactivation.

Mack's complaint isn’t alone. A complaint filed by a Mansfield woman was sent to arbitration. It outlines several instances where she says Uber drivers denied her service because of her dog, including one last October when the Mansfield woman also said she was told her service dog had to ride in the back of the SUV which is what Mack assumes is where her driver wanted Wella to ride.

"It’s not good to separate us from our dog. That dog might be doing something else besides guiding me," she said.

An Uber spokesperson tells NBC 5, "We’re upset about the experience described and have reached out to both the rider and driver to look into this. Driver-partners who use the Uber app agree to accommodate riders with service animals and comply with all accessibility laws.”

They also told us they investigate all service animal denials speaking to the rider and driver and follow guidelines set up as part of a settlement to another lawsuit by the National Federation of the Blind.

Still Mack says Uber’s actions don’t appear to mirror their policy and she wants people with disabilities to know about her experience.

Uber’s policy does give Uber the sole discretion to decide if the driver violated the policy.

Uber's policy and website contradicts itself saying at some points that drivers will be banned after one violation and at other points says consequences come after two reports. 

Uber told us they look into whether the rider and the driver have a conversation about dog or the driver flat out refuses.

There are other platforms for people with disabilities to get around and find rides but obviously none as convenient and readily available as these ride sharing companies.

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