In April, Uber and an advocacy group for the blind reached a landmark settlement requiring the company to impress upon its drivers that they must give rides to the visually-impaired and their service dogs. Apparently a Florida man didn’t get the memo.
Simon Pierre Andre Nau, 60, was arrested earlier this week for allegedly refusing to give a ride to a blind man and his service dog outside an Orlando restaurant. Nau is also accused of driving away while the man was still in the doorway of his van, striking him. He faces charges of failing to transport a blind person and battery.
Police say Nau told the blind man that he doesn’t take dogs in his vehicle, and that he laughed when he was arrested for violating a law requiring him to do so in the case of service dogs.
(Nau told News 6 that he was unaware of the law and that he refused to take the passenger because his daughter is allergic to dogs, telling a reporter, “This is my private car, this is my family car.”)
The issue of how ride-hailing companies accommodate the disabled — as required by a host of federal and state laws — has been one of the main points of contention between them and regulators.
In Chicago, a ride-hailing ordinance has snagged on the issue of imposing strict disability requirements on the companies, including providing wheelchair-accessible vehicles.
The issue of accommodating the blind and disabled has been the subject of litigation with Uber and Lyft going back several years.
A lawsuit filed by the National Federation of the Blind of California alleged that in one instance an UberX driver stuffed a blind passenger’s guide dog into the trunk and refused to stop to let the animal out.
That lawsuit was settled last month, with Uber pledging to make sure that current and new drivers confirm they understand their legal obligations to take riders with guide dogs or other service animals. Uber also agreed to pay $225,000 to the federation to help it oversee compliance with the agreement.
Both Uber and Lyft have made a point of touting their commitment to the disabled. In a post last year, timed to coincide with 25th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act, Uber outlined the steps it’s taken toward improving “accessibility for riders and drivers.”
“Our Code of Conduct details Uber’s policy on accommodating people with disabilities, and specifically prohibits any type of discrimination in serving riders with disabilities,” the company said.
Both companies offer special services for the disabled, including wheelchair-accessible vehicles in some areas. Lyft offers an “access mode” in its app designed to connect the disabled with rides, through its drivers or third parties.
But both companies also make the point that their drivers are independent contractors and that they are limited how strictly they can impose policies on their drivers.
It’s not clear at this point if Uber has taken action against the Florida driver.