Thursday, June 20, 2019

LYFT. Discrimination.

Last Thursday after a WE (Women Entrepreneur) meeting, I pulled out my phone and requested a ride from my LYFT ap.  I mentioned to one of the women how much I loved the possibilities with LYFT.  I was meeting a friend at City Creek and being able to just call for a ride was wonderful.  (I'm blind with a guide dog.)  I see the world with possibility and lemons that turn into lemonade so those times of access denials weren't on my mind yet.   

As I waited for the driver, that moment of angst ... will this driver deny me because I am waiting here with my guide dog, Georgie?  YES that happens far too frequently for me, my friends with guide dogs and many others with service animals.  Imagine requesting a LYFT ride -- certainly with a destination in mind/anticipated time needed to be there and  with that additional concern of will I get that ride?  Will this driver deny me?  

I've lost count of how many times I've been denied access.  MANY.  Each time after having a driver drive away, stop and refuse to open his door for me, walk out from my house - with my mom and have the driver tell us he won't take us because of my guide, ... I could go on and on of the experiences.  However, each time I call the Lyft phone number to issue a complaint and then request another ride. 

It comes at a cost in many ways for me:

1.  There is simply added concern - uncertainty as you wait for that ride.
2.  One must allow for extra time because if I need to be to an appointment at 9 then I need to give myself extra time incase they deny me.  Denial also entails advocating -- making the phone call to LYFT to issue a formal complaint.  
3.  This discrimination no matter how confident you are .. takes its toll on you emotionally for a moment, a day, longer depending on the situation.  
4.  And, in the end it is just not right.  I think who else has this happened to today.  What can I do about the situation?  How can I advocate?  

Last Thursday was a different situation.  I was picked up by the Lyft Driver fine.  Georgie, my guide dog, slid into the back seat and rode from Farmington to City Creek lying by my feet.  The driver and I visited briefly and then I returned some phone calls on the drive.  I got out and thanked him.  Two days later I receive an email from Lyft indicating an additional $100 had been assessed to my account because of damages to his car.  I was shocked as I thought back to our ride.  Georgie was quietly sitting by my feet the whole time.  Two pictures were sent -- one of his floor where yes there were a few hairs on the floor.  The picture of the seat was covered with scratches.  I am not sure how his seat was scratched ... I know it was not from my guide dog who was sitting on the floor for the whole ride. My husband looked at the pictures and indicated those scratches do not match up to Georgie at all - she would have been scrambling all over the seat.  She was sitting at my feet the whole ride.  This is how guide dogs are trained to behave.  

I've really appreciated Lyft and the freedom they have given me inspite of the challenging times with access denials.   However, this new scenario has some added concerns.  So, anytime a lyft driver wants to decide to charge me and declare my dog has done damages they can?!  Anytime, they want to deny me access they can?  

As I called the Lyft Customer Service to report ... "Miss Becky, I can tell you I'm almost 95% sure I can get this charge reversed.  We don't charge for damages service dogs do to cars.  We take this very seriously when our passengers with service animals are denied access.  REALLY????  I told him the evidence just doesn't seem to support that.  Consistently I hear from others with guide dogs who are denied.  Each time I call for a Lyft it crosses my mind briefly unless it becomes a reality then I have to take the appropriate action.  

I told him calmly :) -- lets make it clear my guide dog did not do any damages to his car.  Let's not change the story.  

I've heard mixed reports on what recourse there is and also that Lyft and Uber do not need to follow the ADA laws and that they know that.  I've observed they are talking the talk .. yet their actions don't demonstrate that they really are a place where I can confidently push that 'confirm ride' and know that I will be picked up free from discrimination.  

Disappointing to say the least. For now, I am taking a pause on my Lyft account while I sort through other options.  Thankful I do have many other options.  

Just as when I was told to leave a grocery store in 1998, I won't just sit and let this happen. 

What are your thoughts?  Insights on this topic?  Thanks for sharing ... 

Look up, move forward.  

PD:  Becky and Georgie (sitting at my feet) at City Creek.  Photo cred: Rick Egan - SL Tribune.