Blind singer and guide dog refused Uber ride
LEGALLY blind Adelaide singer Rachael Leahcar has called for more education on the rights of guide dogs after an Uber driver refused to pick her up while travelling with her longtime companion Ella.
Ms Leahcar was reduced to tears following the incident on Sunday afternoon, which saw her stranded on King William Street with Ella, a seven-year old golden retriever, who's been with her for about five years.
"I'd just opened the (car) door and started to take off her (Ella's) harness when I heard the dreaded words, 'No, no, no, I cannot take the dog'," she said.
"I told the driver, 'This is a guide dog, I need her because I'm blind, this is against the law.' But he kept saying 'No, no', adding, 'It will be too expensive to clean my car'.
"I just burst into tears, I'd just had a gutful. We had to order another Uber and I was very late for my Fringe show."
The former Voice Australia star said it wasn't the first time she's been refused service by an Uber driver because of her guide dog, which is illegal under SA law.
"I don't know anyone who has a guide dog who hasn't experienced this at least once, often multiple times. It's a real problem and it causes so much anxiety, not just for me but everyone who wants to travel independently, this is why we've got a guide dog so we can go out and about," Ms Leahcar said.
Ms Leahcar, 25, reported the incident to the ride-sharing firm, who are investigating the complaint.
An Uber spokesperson told The Advertiser they have a "a zero-tolerance policy toward discrimination and under their Assistance Animal Policy, drivers are "advised of their legal obligation to transport passengers with assistance animals".
Ms Leahcar said the current training system was inadequate and needed to be overhauled to ensure this type of discrimination doesn't happen again.
"I don't think the training process (for drivers) is sufficient, it's just not working. That first step - education - should be a big part of the training process," she said.
"They need to message all the drivers on the system that this is not okay... I want there to be education and awareness about the rights of guide dogs so we can be treated equally and have our rights exercised."
The Uber spokesperson said drivers under investigation were "temporarily" suspended following an internal review.
"If this is the first report against the driver, he or she must undergo additional education and score over 90% on a test to demonstrate they understand their legal obligations to riders with assistance animals. Any further incidents of this nature may result in permanent loss of access to the Uber Driver App," the spokesperson said.
Royal Society for the Blind guide dog manager Lindy Hennekam said Ms Leahcar's experience sadly was not uncommon for many guide dog users.
"It's disappointing this has happened. By law, you have to allow guide dogs on all forms of public transport whether that's buses, trains or Ubers," she said.
"It's a real matter of education, to make sure they (drivers) are educated. Hopefully with this incident it will spark them to make sure all their drivers are well aware of the legislation."
A complaint was also made against an Adelaide restaurant in January, when a woman was denied entry because of her assistance dog.