Blind woman in Minnesota says ride-sharing companies do not allow her service dog in vehicles

A Minnesota woman said she is getting the runaround from ride-sharing companies because, as a blind person, she wants her service dog to accompany her.

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Amena Thomas, 22, of Minneapolis, said she does not feel right without her dog, Titus.

"He changed my life," Thomas told KARE-TV. "He's made it so I'm able to function like everybody else."

However, Thomas said she sometimes has a problem when trying to get a ride from Uber or Lyft drivers.

"I'll send a message saying, 'I am blind and use a service dog,'" Thomas told KARE. "That's when problems start."

Thomas said drivers cancel the ride instead of replying to her message, the television station reported. She added that sometimes when she does not send a heads-up to the driver, they decline her a ride when they arrive to pick her up.

"They'll either say, 'I don't take dogs' or they'll drive off and not tell us anything and cancel," Thomas told KARE. "It happens anywhere from one to four times a month."

Both Uber and Lyft have strict policies against refusing service animals, the television station reported. In 2016, Uber agreed to pay $225,000 to the National Federation of the Blind after a lawsuit claiming discrimination against riders with service animals. As part of the settlement, Uber also stiffer penalties

According to Uber's updated service animal policy in 2017, any driver who refuses someone with a service animal "will be barred" from using the company's platform.

Officials at Uber responded to Thomas' complaints with a statement to KARE.

"We are upset by this rider's poor experience and are looking into the matter. Drivers who use the Uber app agree to accommodate riders with service animals and comply with their independent obligations under accessibility laws," the statement said.

Thomas said such statements have been empty promises, and she expressed her displeasure dealing with Uber's support staff in several tweets earlier this summer.

"I get apologies, but no action," Thomas told KARE. "(And) 99.99% of the time they get a slap on the wrist and, supposedly, re-educated."

The National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota told KARE that Uber appeared to be making an effort to hold its drivers accountable.

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