A visually impaired man who was almost rejected from an Uber last week because his guide dog was “too big” says he is fed-up of feeling like a second-class citizen.
Stephen Anderson, who is visually impaired, was at Harrow on the Hill station on September 12 with his guide dog, Barney, when he tried to get an Uber, only to be refused by the driver.
Shocking video footage which the 30-year-old posted on Twitter shows an Uber driver apparently telling him that “only small dogs” are allowed in his car and claimed his service dog, eight-year-old Labrador Barney, was “too big”.
In the clip, Stephen asks the driver: “I’m not quite following you. I’ve just explained to you that he is a guide dog, so that’s fine?”
But the driver says “no”, to which Stephen asks: “It’s not fine?”
The Uber driver retaliates: “No, inside small ones.”
Stephen again asks: “So hang on a second, you’re saying only small dogs inside? Is that what you’re saying?”
He then asked the driver to confirm that Barney is not allowed inside the vehicle – despite the law and Uber policy saying otherwise.
Stephen, who is a pianist and the director of music at St Thomas’ Church in Kensal Town, explains to the driver: ‘I’m just going to explain this very simply. As I’ve explained to you, he’s a guide dog.
“Under Section 107 of the Equality Act, there is an obligation to take – as he’s a guide dog.”
After the driver asks him if he has told Uber that he has a guide dog, Stephen adds: ‘I’m not required to tell anybody that I’ve got a guide dog with me, and that’s part of Uber’s policy, yes.’
He then confirms that it is both Uber’s policy and the law to take him because he has a guide dog, before asking the driver again if he is “refusing” to take him.
The Uber goes back and forth with Stephen for some time before a kind member of the public intervened, telling the driver: “You can’t deny him. You cannot deny him, that’s a guide dog.
“You cannot deny him by law. You cannot deny him – it’s a guide dog. He can take his dog in a shop, anywhere he wants.”
After the passer-by gets involved, the Uber driver exited his car and opened the door for Stephen, allowing him and Barney to enter and return home.
Under the Equality Act, guide dog and other assistance dog owners have the right to enter the majority of services, venues and vehicles with their dog.
Uber’s official company policy also states: “You must always allow service dogs in Uber rides to accompany their riders – it’s the law.”
Sharing the footage to Twitter, Stephen wrote: “Just now at Harrow on the Hill station. Refusing to take a guide dog and only doing so when a kind member of the public intervenes. This has to stop, it’s getting ridiculous. How I didn’t flip my lid I’ll never know.”
Speaking to My London, Stephen said that this is the 14th time that something like this has happened – and that one in ten of all of his journeys end up with a similar outcome.
He said: “This is not new. It’s so frustrating that things like this are continuing to happen. It just gets tiring. Sometimes you just want to get home in peace but I feel like it’s a constant battle.
“I know all the laws back to front. It’s great that someone stepped up because that’s the first time that has happened. But why did the driver listen to him straight away and not listen to me at all? It’s almost as if some people perceive disabled people as week or feeble.
“I definitely suffer from arrival anxiety – even just trying to plan simple trips. I shouldn’t be having to think like Sherlock Holmes whenever I am leaving the house.
“Harrow is home. I’ve lived here pretty much all my life and I can’t believe things like this are still happening on my doorstep.”
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The ordeal has affected Stephen so badly that he says he is considering not getting another guide dog when Barney is eventually forced to retire in the future.
He added: “I filed a report with Transport for London but because I wasn’t refused in the end, there’s nothing legally that can be done.”
My London has contacted Uber for comment but has not received a reply at time of publication.
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