Uber announced today that it has proposed a settlement with the National Federation of the Blind’s California chapter. The technology company has asked a judge to approve the deal, which specifies that Uber will publish a service animal policy and educate drivers on the this and overall partner policies, as well as paying the organization $225,000 over three years. The deal would also permit the NFBC to “run a testing program to evaluate the effectiveness” of these changes.
In a lawsuit filed in 2014, the National Federation of the Blind, along with riders Michael Kelly, Michael Hingson, and Michael Pederson, sued Uber over violation of Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). They alleged that the company denied rides to passengers with service animals.
The plaintiffs contended that “in response to complaints lodged with Uber about these allegations, Uber allegedly fails to respond, does not take steps to address the discrimination, and frequently denies responsibility for the discrimination.”
As a result of the proposed settlement, Uber said that the company will make the it clearer to drivers on its platform that they are “obligated to transport any passenger with a service animal.” What’s more, if a judge accepts the deal, Uber will now display a pop-up in its app advising drivers of this obligation, as well as sending email reminders to drivers.
Drivers who refuse to provide service to passengers accompanied by service animals will be barred from the platform, the company wrote in a blog post.
To ensure that Uber is keeping its word, it’s been proposed that the National Federation of the Blind oversee these changes, essentially functioning as a watchdog. This would involve having riders with service animals test the service to see if Uber has made good on its word.
Whether these changes would be effective just in California or would extend to other markets where Uber operates remains unclear from the company’s post. We’ve reached out to Uber for clarification and will update this post when we hear back.
Although the suit was filed in 2014, it is only now coming to a close, as Uber reportedly contended that any disputes between itself and passengers were to be handled through arbitration and not through the court. However, in 2015, a judge didn’t buy that argument and ordered that the case move forward. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, U.S. Magistrate Nathanael Cousins this week ordered both sides to “file terms of the proposed settlement within a week or prepare to go to trial.”
Over the past few weeks, Uber has been touting its efforts to improve lives for drivers from various communities, including military veterans and their loved ones and those who are hearing impaired. But while the company is promoting itself as inclusive in terms of hiring, some drivers have apparently failed to extend this inclusivity to those they provide service to.
Uber isn’t the only ridesharing service that’s been accused of discrimination against disabled passengers, and not just to those with service animals. Uber’s main U.S. competitor, Lyft, has also been on the receiving end of discrimination lawsuits.