Hey, Mister or miss Uber / Lyft / taxi cab driver, can we have a chat? You don’t know me, but my name is Doug. I am one of thousands of people in my city / province / state with a permanent disability. I should not have to, but for the purpose of this article, I want to disclose to you all, yes, I am in fact legally blind. This means that one or both of my eyes, does not work / see great or at all. I want to keep this simple, just for the ease of writing. I don’t like to use rideshare or cabs, unless I have no other option, because it just feels inconvenient to me, but lately when I do, I’m scared. I am not scared about physical harm by any of you drivers, but I am afraid of psychological harm, I am afraid of the physical harm that can easily arise because of your actions. I am afraid of what your actions will have for an impact on my service dog. Yes, I have an amazingly well trained, amazingly intelligent labradour retriever who guides me through my world with ease. So why am I writing this to you? Unfortunately it is not so simple to answer, it is truly a painful answer, and it is an answer that will make some of you angry, some of you hurt, and some of you just won’t care. It is those of you who won’t care that I am directing this letter to.
In the last 1.5 weeks, I have personally experienced two of you refuse me vehicle service. This has not been because of my attitude, or really anything that would normally get you denied a ride. Do you want to guess the reason? I’ll pause here for you to think about it. Did you guess that I was refused because of my service dog? I truly hope that this was not your guess, because if it was than we have just shown each other how horrible society truly is. If you did not guess that my service dog was the reason, Why?
Guys, this is a very real issue plaguing not only my home city in Alberta, but this is a problem plaguing the entirety of North America, and other nations. Service dogs are incredibly well trained professionals such as you or me, there are rules and guidelines that we as handlers have to follow for our own partnership with our dogs, most importantly, there are articles of legislation no matter your location that are designed to protect those of us with service dogs. So what make our dogs so special? To keep it very simple, it is the months of professional training, the years of dedication, the independence that they provide, but most importantly, these dogs in many ways are quite literally the one living breathing thing that stands between us and unexpected death / injury. These dogs are nothing more than medical equipment. Okay, that sounds harsh, but it is literally true. These dogs are no different to our independence and health than someone’s wheelchair, someone’s Insulin pump, even someone’s heart monitor. These highly trained dogs are with us all the time, they are guiding us across streets, notifying us that our Insulin is to low or to high, telling us that our heart is to fast / to slow / blood pressure to high / to low. These dogs are quite literally our eyes, our ears, our limbs, and in some cases that highly trained friend who keeps us calm during a mental health crisis.
So, why are we as people with disabilities facing denials because of our medical equipment, why are we scared to take a rideshare in fear of our safety / health? Most importantly, why are we seen as less than just because of our dogs. As referenced above, there are a multitude of jurisdictions who have enacted their own legislations to protect service dogs and their handlers, to name a few we have the Americans with Disabilities Act, we have the Service Dog Act and Blind Persons Rights Act in Alberta, the Service Dogs Act in British Columbia, a variety of provinces with Human Rights Code policies protecting service dogs and their handlers, The AODA in Ontario just to name a few. The penalty under each of these acts / policies can range from fines to potential jail terms depending on your location and the severity of the offence. Are these not enough to deter one from refusal? Are the policies of your municipality / rideshare service provider not enough to deter you?
I always have to explain myself because of my guide dog and my disability, I am turning the tables this time. Why do you feel it is okay to deny a service dog and their handler? Why do you feel that it is perfectly alright to place another human beings life in danger? I am truly interested.