In an unprecedented settlement announced today, Uber has agreed to take affirmative steps to prevent discrimination against blind riders who use guide dogs in its transportation network across the United States.
Uber Technologies Inc. is an American international transportation network company headquartered in San Francisco, California. The company develops, markets and operates the Uber mobile app, which allows consumers with smartphones to submit a trip request which is then routed to Uber drivers who use their own cars. Uber's pricing is similar to that of metered taxis, although all hiring and payment is handled exclusively through Uber and not with the driver personally.
The settlement resolves a lawsuit - National Federation of the Blind of California, et al. v. Uber Technologies, Inc. - brought by the National Federation of the Blind, its California affiliate, and individuals who use guide dogs, to ensure that guide-dog users have full and equal access to vehicles in the Uber network. This is the first nationwide class-action settlement of its kind against an app-based transportation network company.
While the growth of Uber's on-demand transportation services has the potential to be a boon to blind people, Uber drivers have regularly denied rides to blind people who use guide dogs. This discrimination violates federal and state laws that protect the rights of people with disabilities. Under the settlement, Uber will work to end this discrimination, and blind individuals will be able to use Uber without the threat of discrimination.
Uber has agreed to take affirmative steps to tell drivers about their obligations to transport riders who are disabled and use service animals, and will require that existing and new drivers expressly confirm that they understand their obligations. Uber will remove a driver from the platform if Uber finds that the driver knowingly denied a person with a disability a ride because the person was traveling with a service animal or if Uber receives complaints that a driver denied a person a ride because of a service animal on more than one occasion.
Uber will also improve its response system for complaints related to discrimination against guide-dog users, and will track detailed data on all allegations of such discrimination. Additionally, the National Federation of the Blind and its California affiliate will deploy testers over a multi-year period to evaluate Uber's compliance with the settlement.
Mark A. Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: "Access to reliable and effective transportation is critical to the ability of blind people to live the lives we want. Uber and similar services can be a great asset to the blind when they are fully and equally available to us. The National Federation of the Blind is therefore pleased with Uber's commitment to implement, and effectively enforce, a nondiscrimination policy with respect to blind people who use guide dogs. We look forward to working with Uber to ensure that all blind passengers can take advantage of the innovative transportation service it offers."
Plaintiffs and defendants submitted the proposed settlement to the court on April 29, 2016, and seek approval from the court to settle as a nationwide class action. Copies of the settlement and other documents can be found at dralegal.org/case/national-federation-of-the-blind-of-california-et-al-v-uber-technologies-inc-et-al/
Plaintiffs are represented by Larry Paradis and Julia Marks of Disability Rights Advocates, Timothy Elder of TRE Legal, and Michael Bien and Michael Nunez of Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld LLP.