A man from Cardiff is taking Uber to court over claims they refused to pick him up with his guide dog on more than 100 occasions.
Cardiff-based entrepreneur, Dan Williams is bringing a case against the company after he claims they regularly refuse to pick him up with his dog, Zodiac.
Dan, who is registered blind as he is gradually losing his sight due to a condition called retinitis pigmentosa, claims over the past two years he has regularly been turned down for journeys.
He said it often causes him to miss or be late for appointments and has affected his business reputation.
Dan said: “A regular scenario is that I book an Uber ride and on arrival, the driver either spots me and Zodiac and drives off or pulls up and refuses to allow us into their car.
“I always remain calm and professional and explain that it is illegal under UK law as a guide dog is classed as a mobility aid, just like a wheelchair.
“I then started to message drivers to inform them that I have a guide dog which resulted in cancellations and would often message two or three drivers before one would actually accept the job.”
During a two-week period, Dan said he had ordered 10 Ubers and was refused access six times, leaving him feeling “mentally drained, exhausted angry [and] frustrated”.
He often travels to carry out training for organisations and workplace assessments for employees with sight loss through his social enterprise, Visualise Training and Consultancy.
Dan said he decided to take legal action to stop similar incidents happening to other blind or partially sighted people and says he has also considered giving up Zodiac.
Dan said: “Having Zodiac has transformed my life over the past two years and he’s become my best friend, but at times like these I really start to wonder if I should hand him back to Guide Dogs and revert to using a white cane to avoid all the anxiety and inconvenience caused by Uber drivers.”
Specialist disability discrimination lawyer Chris Fry, of Fry Law, is handling Dan’s case.
He said: “I’m very hopeful that together, we can make a positive impact on the taxi sector as a whole that will benefit the 2 million people living with sight loss in the UK.
“We think that Uber hanging its drivers out to dry shows an abrogation of responsibility. They are the service provider and are therefore responsible for providing an Equality Act compliant service.”
The Equality and Human Rights Commission are supporting the claim.
A commission spokesperson said: “Transport operators have clear responsibilities in law to help disabled people travel freely, but often they are failing to meet them.
“We are funding Mr Williams’ case and others, to encourage improvements to the transport industry’s policies and practice so that the needs of disabled and older people are key considerations in the current and future design of public transport.
“Disabled people and older passengers must be able to enjoy public transport just like everybody else.”
Proceedings were issued in the County Court at the end of April and Dan’s counsel is waiting to receive the sealed documents back.
They intend to apply to the court to stay the case (suspend the case partially or fully) pending the outcome of a separate Supreme Court case, which they anticipate will be by the end of the year.
The Supreme Court is due to hear a case in July surrounding the status of Uber’s drivers, with the firm arguing they are self-employed.
In an email sent to Dan on May 11, an Uber spokeswoman said: “It is totally unacceptable for drivers to refuse to take a guide dog and we investigate every report.
“Licensed private hire drivers must carry service animals in their vehicle. We highlight this obligation to all drivers before they start using the Uber app and often send reminders.
“Any driver who is found to have refused to take a service animal will permanently lose access to the app.”
Uber have been approached several times by WalesOnline for a comment.
Dan’s story was highlighted in the BBC consumer programme, Rip Off Britain. You can watch the episode using the link below.