We know that filing complaints takes time and can be inconvenient when you are simply trying to reach your travel destination. However, your complaints to Uber and Lyft, and to the National Federation of the Blind’s testing program, are making a difference.
Below are some tips for filing effective complaints that will help Uber, Lyft and our legal team better ensure that drivers are properly handled under the policy changes set forth in the settlement agreements.
How to file a complaint with Uber and Lyft
You can complain directly to both rideshare companies on the web, by phone, or through their apps. All service animal users whom are denied rides due to their service animals should report the driver to the respective company to ensure accountability. Don’t let a driver get away with it; reporting denials benefits yourself, other riders, and responsible drivers.
To register complaints with Uber, use their online complaint form or, for critical safety concerns, call 800–285–9481. If you prefer to use the Uber app, press the menu button in the upper left corner of the screen, then choose “help,” then choose “accessibility,” then choose “I want to report a service animal issue.” You can then fill out and submit your complaint on the resulting form.
To register complaints with Lyft, use their online complaint form, or call their dedicated service animal hotline at 844-554-1297. If you prefer to use the Lyft app, press the menu button in the upper left corner of the screen, then choose help, then choose “help center,” then choose “service animal policy,” then choose “report a service animal problem,” then choose “contact support,” then, if you are using iOS, press the “open in Safari” button in the lower right corner of the screen. You can then fill out and submit your complaint on the resulting form.
Help the driver know it is not a pet
Disclosing that you have a service animal is never a condition of getting a ride. However, because of the large number of non-disabled riders with pets and pets dressed in fake service animal accessories, you may find it more practical to proactively alert the driver that you have a service animal. Some drivers are canceling rides before they know whether or not a dog is a service animal. Contacting the driver a couple of minutes before your driver arrives may help clear up any uncertainty. Presently, both Uber and Lyft offer options to contact your driver by text or by voice calling, either of which will help ensure that the driver is aware that you have a service animal.
Tell Uber or Lyft that your driver knew it was a service animal
The settlement agreements require that drivers who knowingly refuse a service animal should be immediately terminated on a first offense. If you believe that your driver’s behavior deserves immediate termination, then you should be sure that you include information in your complaint to Uber or Lyft that shows how the driver “knew” it was a service animal and not a pet. Text messages or verbal conversations with drivers in which you tell the driver you have a service animal is strong evidence that the driver knew it was a service animal. Below are a few examples of complaints that should result in immediate termination. Note that they are respectful, detailed, clearly explain how the driver came to know that the animal was a service animal, and demonstrate that the driver had that knowledge before they canceled. As these examples show, you should include any additional evidence, such as witness contact information or text message transcripts, when those are available.
I used my account to request a ride on Monday, January 1 at about 10:15 AM. At 3 minutes before my driver arrived, I texted her, “I am the woman in the black business suit on the corner of Elm and Maple Street standing with my service animal.” The driver then called me and verbally said that she “cannot take a dog in her car.” I verbally told her “it is a service animal that the ride sharing company requires you to transport.” The driver then audibly sighed, hung up and canceled the ride within 20 seconds. I am including a screenshot of the text message I sent her.
I used my account to request a ride this evening at about 8pm. After being paired with a driver, I called him to tell him that I was the gentleman standing next to the lamp post in front of the apartment entrance at 555 Main St, wearing a blue sweater, and accompanied by a black service dog, and asked him to let me know when he arrived because I would not be able to see him. The driver said, “You have a dog?” and I replied that I had a service dog trained to assist a disability. The driver said, “No no no. No dogs,” and hung up on me. He then cancelled the ride.
I used my account to request a ride last night around 6pm. I was with my friend who uses a service dog. When the driver arrived, I opened the rear door and asked him to slide the front seat forward so that my friend’s service dog would have room to lie down at my friend’s feet. The driver said he didn’t allow dogs in his personal vehicle. Both my friend and I told him again that it was a trained service dog, and that he was required to transport it both by law and by company policy, but he continued to refuse to transport us with my friend’s service dog. My friend’s name is John Smith. He can be reached at 333–555–1212.
Avoiding legitimate denials
There are a few situations where a driver may refuse to transport a service animal without violating the law or the settlement agreement. A driver may refuse a trip for reasons unrelated to a rider’s service animal. For example, a driver may cancel upon learning that the rider wishes to travel a great distance (e.g., more than 100 miles). A simple rule-of-thumb for this situation is to ask yourself whether the driver canceled or refused a trip before learning that you have a service animal: if the driver cancels your ride before you mention your service animal, and before the driver has an opportunity to see you with your service animal, then their denial is likely not because of your service animal.
There are also situations where a driver may lawfully cancel or refuse a trip because of a service animal. All of those situations involve indications that a service animal is not under its handler’s control. They include:
- A service animal biting or making a serious attempt to bite the driver or another passenger.
- A service animal urinating or defecating in the driver’s vehicle.
- A service animal being out of control and the handler being unable or unwilling to bring the service animal under control.
While these situations are unlikely to arise for experienced service animals and their handlers, it is important to keep them in mind, and to ensure that your service animal is under your control when interacting with a driver and while being transported in a driver’s vehicle.
Drivers may offer reasons for refusing to transport service animals that they may think are legitimate. Riders should be aware that these reasons do not excuse a driver’s refusal, and subject the driver to termination if the driver knows that the animal is a service animal and not a pet. These invalid reasons include:
- The driver-partner is allergic to animals.
- Another person who drives the vehicle is allergic to animals.
- The driver-partner is afraid of animals or dislikes animals.
- The driver-partner has religious or cultural objections to animals.
- The rider did not have written documentation proving that the rider’s animal is a service animal. People with disabilities are not required to carry documentation proving that their animals are service animals.
- The rider’s service animal was not wearing a special vest, ID tag, or harness. Service animals are not required to wear special vests, ID tags, or harnesses.
- The rider’s service animal began to bark or make other noises, but the rider stopped this behavior.
- The rider’s service animal was smelly.
- The driver-partner was worried that the rider’s service animal would shed hair in the vehicle.
- The driver-partner was worried that the rider’s service animal would make a mess by vomiting, urinating, or defecating in the vehicle.
If a driver offers any of these excuses to a rider with a service animal, the rider should calmly inform the driver that their animal is a service animal, that law and company policy require the driver to transport the service animal, and that the stated reason does not excuse them from their obligation to transport a service animal.
Our legal team can advocate for further changes and policy improvements if these companies are not properly handling your complaints or not holding drivers accountable. You can send our legal team reports via the NFB ridesharing page, or feel free to let us know about these problems by phone or email. We may ask you to forward any email messages between you and the rideshare company to assist us in understanding the history of your problem and conveying your concerns. You can reach us at 410-415–3493, 415-873-9199, or at email@example.com.
Please continue to participate in NFB’s testing program
We depend on your reports, both good and bad, to support our advocacy and inform our understanding of the effectiveness of the current settlement provisions. We also look for patterns to see if there are new problems not addressed by the settlement or changes that might improve the situation for riders with service animals.
To submit reports, visit the ridesharing page on NFB’s website.
Report non-service denial discrimination
In addition to refusals to transport service animals, we want to ensure that service animal users receive the same level of service as everyone else. If you experience forms of discrimination other than being denied a ride, make sure to report these to Uber or Lyft and also to NFB.
Report accessibility issues
Ridesharing apps and websites are constantly being updated. Please continue to let Uber and Lyft, as well as NFB, know about any technical/accessibility problems you experience using their apps or complaint forms.
Thank you for your continued advocacy. Your reports of discrimination due to a service animal enabled us to negotiate excellent service animal policies with Uber and Lyft, and continue to enable our legal team to ensure both companies fulfill their settlement commitments. Your continued reporting will support our efforts to ensure that Uber and Lyft enforce those policies, that those policies are supplemented with additional measures if needed, and that we reach the goal of eliminating driver discrimination on both platforms. Keep up the good work!