3 Reasons Uber Keeps Failing the Visually Impaired

An Uber car with the company logo attached.
Uber is failing the BVI community.

I’ve had good experiences with many Uber drivers, but this technology company should ensure bad apples don’t spoil the bunch.

After this weekend’s news about Lisa Irving, it’s clear the BVI community is not receiving the same quality of service as sighted passengers.

‘All Americans should be liberated by the rideshare revolution, the blind and visually impaired are among those who should benefit the most.’ — A spokesman for Miss Irving (BBC)

So why aren’t they?

Lisa was recently awarded a £795,000 pay-out for experiencing 14 occasions of verbal abuse and neglect from Uber drivers. What was the reason for harassment? Seemingly, it was Lisa’s blindness and her guide dog Bernie.

Lisa doesn’t sound like a person who has been benefitting from the rideshare revolution.

So what’s Uber doing wrong? Here’s three problems.

Uber can’t keep up with their growth in drivers

Uber fails their capable drivers by hiring people incapable of being inclusive.

There’s an estimated 3–4 million Uber drivers worldwide, hustling for some extra cash on their own terms.

We get it, there’s a side-hustle culture. But that doesn’t mean new drivers should ignore providing a quality service to make a quick buck. The current economic landscape may look worrying, but this doesn’t have to be dog-eat-dog.

In short, technology companies need to ensure they are sticking to their claims about inclusivity and diversity, and doing so by properly on-boarding new employees.

Uber can’t control their brand image

It doesn’t matter how often Uber mentions their drivers are contractual workers and not permanent employees. People are not saying ‘I got Dave to drive me here.’

They’re saying ‘I got an Uber.’

Uber drivers are representatives of the company.

Drivers should carry out their duty to a high standard to best represent their company; they are extensions of the company and the only human face the majority will meet representing the Uber brand.

If the brand is to be successful long term, it needs to provide as thorough a check on drivers as traditional taxi companies.

What’s more, if Uber is serious about beating the traditional taxi system, they must help all members of society. I understand Uber seeks to offer a cheaper solution to traditional taxi services, but this shouldn’t come at the cost of inclusivity.

‘The company said in its statement that their goal at Uber is to make transportation options more accessible to all individuals, including those who are visually impaired, those who have low-vision or have other disabilities.’ — (BBC)

Uber seems to be saying the right things. But now it’s time to do the right things. A goal is worthless without being put in concrete terms. The BVI community deserves facts, figures, and dates.

Perhaps they might ensure that all drivers complete online training on how to accommodate BVI passengers by December 2021. Uber then needs to implement a method to ensure lessons learned from this training stick.

Uber drivers may be unaware of laws

Perhaps certain drivers see guide dogs as awkward to transport, or blind and visually impaired passengers as inconvenient to them.

One driver reportedly cut a trip short, lied that he had taken Lisa to her destination, and left her in an unknown place. This is totally unacceptable.

Rejecting a customer on the basis of blindness is illegal discrimination, as ruled in the Irving versus Uber case, and furthermore under the Americans with Disabilities Act, a guide dog should be able to go anywhere that a blind person can go.

You’d have thought every Uber driver would understand the legal requirements of their job, and be made thoroughly aware of them prior to commencing work. This is apparently not the case.

This isn’t the first time Uber has fallen out with the BVI community.

‘In 2014, The National Federation of the Blind in the US sued the ride-sharing app over guide-dog regulations. The case was settled in 2017 when Uber agreed to ensure its drivers knew they were legally obliged to provide service to people with guide dogs.’ —( BBC)

So why is this still happening?

Uber should make sure new and existing drivers are properly tested, properly trained, and properly equipped to provide services to the BVI community or any other disabled passengers that wish to use the service.

If Uber is unable to do this, perhaps they should scale back to ensure all their drivers are adequately trained. If drivers are not able to be trained and checked adequately with no change soon, perhaps the rideshare revolution is not as revolutionary as we thought.

Big Tech isn’t the enemy, and there are many great Uber drivers, but this technology company should be more careful about who works for them, and the standard it sets for its employees.

Intern @ MyFinderr.com — Literature Graduate — Writing all about marketing and the visually impaired

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