Grabbing an Uber on the way to work is common for many, especially in a city like San Francisco. But for Lisa Irving, who is blind, that process became a nightmare. Drivers repeatedly refused to give her a ride or pick her up — refusing to let her seeing-eye dog, Bernie, enter their car. And now, a judge has ordered the ride-share giant to pay Irving $1.1 million for the repeated discrimination she experienced.
Jesse O’Neill of the NY Post reported that court arbitrators who had listened to the details of her case “awarded Lisa Irving between $4,000 and $75,000 in damages for each incident of discrimination, depending on the severity of the bias, for a direct payment of $324,000.”
Irving was also awarded more than $800,000 for legal costs relating to her case.
According to O’Neill, the court mediators decided that Irving had been repeatedly discriminated against and “found that Uber drivers must comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, or else the company is liable.” The court added that its ruling will be enforced even though Uber drivers are independent contractors and not full-time employees of the company.
“In one of the most severe incidents, a driver stole Irving’s phone and filed a false police report against her, according to the ruling,” O’Neill said. “In another, a driver tried to kick her ‘out of his car at least fifteen times, at one point pulling over to demand she get out in a dangerous area, making her feel helpless by his intimidation and threats.’”
As a result of the repeated loss of transportation, Irving told the court that she had also ultimately lost her job for missing work.
“I felt demeaned, humiliated, devalued, embarrassed, angered, frustrated and violated,” she said during her testimony in the case.
Irving’s lawyers filed a petition to confirm the reward in San Francisco Superior Court on April 1. They said they believed the award was the largest given to a blind passenger for ADA violations.
Even though they have agreed to the payment, an Uber spokesperson told David Williams of CNN Business that they disagreed with the award.
“We are proud Uber’s technology has helped people who are blind obtain rides and regret Ms. Irving’s experience,” the spokesperson said. “Drivers using the Uber app are expected to serve riders with service animals and comply with accessibility and other laws, and we regularly provide education to drivers on that responsibility. Our dedicated team looks into each complaint and takes appropriate action.”
“Of all Americans who should be liberated by the ride-share revolution, the blind and visually impaired are among those who stand to benefit the most,” Irving’s attorney, Catherine Cabalo, said in a statement. “However, the track record of major ride-share services has been spotty at best and openly discriminatory at worst. The bottom line is that under the Americans with Disabilities Act, a guide dog should be able to go anywhere that a blind person can go.”