Uber has been ordered to pay $1.1m to a blind woman who was refused rides on 14 occasions with her service dog.
Lisa Irving said on some occasions, drivers were verbally abusive, or harassed her about transporting her service dog, Bernie, in the car.
One driver allegedly cut her trip short after falsely claiming to have arrived at her destination.
An independent arbitrator ruled Uber’s drivers had illegally discriminated against her due to her blindness.
It rejected Uber’s claim that the company itself was not liable, because, it argued, its drivers had the status of contractors rather than employees.
Mrs Irving, from San Francisco, said she had worried about her safety after being stranded multiple times late at night due to being rejected by drivers.
She also alleged that cancelled rides also led to her being late for work, which contributed to her being fired from her job.
The behavior from drivers continued despite her complaining to Uber, she said. A spokesman for Mrs Irving said: “Of all Americans who should be liberated by the rideshare revolution, the blind and visually impaired are among those who stand to benefit the most.
“The bottom line is that under the Americans with Disabilities Act, a service guide dog should be able to go anywhere that a blind person can go.”
In a statement issued to media following the ruling, a spokesman for Uber said the company is “proud” of the help it offers blind passengers.
“Drivers using the Uber app are expected to serve riders with service animals and comply with accessibility and other laws, and we regularly provide education to drivers on that responsibility.
“Our dedicated team looks into each complaint and takes appropriate action,” he added.
It is not the first time Uber has faced a legal battle from the blind community.
In 2014, The National Federation of the Blind in the US sued the ride-sharing app over guide-dog regulations.
The case was settled in 2017 when Uber agreed to ensure its drivers knew they were legally obliged to provide service to people with guide dogs.
“I’m sorry it came to this,” Mrs Irving told the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper.
“I would have preferred that my civil rights be respected. But it sends a strong message that this is not acceptable.”
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