Uber has a long-standing obsession with skirting regulations. Now the on-demand car service is accused of breaking anti-discrimination laws meant to protect the disabled.

A new lawsuit alleges Uber is violating the American with Disabilities Act, denying the blind customers with service animals rides. The Washington Post reports:

The federal civil rights suit filed Tuesday by the California chapter of the National Federation of the Blind cites instances in California and elsewhere when blind Uber customers summoned a car only to be refused a ride once the driver saw them with a service dog. In some cases, drivers allegedly abandoned blind travelers in extreme weather and charged cancellation fees after denying them rides, the complaint said.

The complaint filed in a Northern California District Court cites one instance where a California UberX driver put a service dog in the trunk and refused to pull over when the blind passenger realized where the animal was.

The California chapter of NFB claims it knows of at least 30 instances of blind customers being illegally denied rides. In one instance, a blind would-be passenger explained to their dispatched driver that the dog was a service animal, only to be cursed at. That driver then "accelerated abruptly, nearly injuring the dog and striking the passenger's friend, who is also blind, with an open car door," the Washington Post reports.

In May, Reuters reported on Uber's unwillingness to transport blind passengers. At the time, Uber denied any wrongdoing, blaming their non-employee contract drivers for the legal infractions:

It's a breach of civil rights," [National Federation of the Blind's Michael Hingson] told Reuters. "Uber ought to be required to obey the same rules as any other transportation service." [...]

After filing a complaint to Uber, [a blind customer who experienced issues with the service] got a response that its drivers are "independent contractors and we cannot control their actions." It's unclear if Uber deactivated the driver involved.

The lawsuit states that this is a human rights issue and Uber is causing harm with the alleged discrimination:

When Uber denies rides to blind riders with service animals, blind individuals experience several harms. They face unexpected delays, they must arrange alternate transportation that is sometimes more costly, and they face the degrading experience of being denied a basic service that is available to all other paying customers

According to the San Francisco Examiner, the National Federation of the Blind claims in the lawsuit that they had previously attempted to negotiate a resolution to their complaints with Uber directly, but were unsuccessful.

Uber denied to the Examiner having seen the suit. In a statement, the company wrote "The Uber app is built to expand access to transportation options for all, including users with visual impairments and other disabilities."

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Photo: Getty