Last week, a Grab driver refused to accept a passenger accompanied by his guide dog and reacted aggressively after the visually-impaired passenger didn’t want to leave the car.
The driver allegedly switched off the car engine and started smoking in the car with all the windows closed.
Such unpleasant encounters are not new to owners with guide dogs in Singapore.
In 2014, Ms Cassandra Chiu and her famous guide dog, Esme, encountered a taxi driver who refused to ferry her and her dog. The driver refused to open the door and sped off, knocking her to the ground and suffer from knee injuries.
Ms Chiu even fractured her ribs in another incident where the taxi driver tried to drive off after refusing entry.
However, ComfortDelGro clarified that guide dogs without muzzles are allowed on board its taxis.
So why can’t the same apply to Grab and Uber drivers?
Sure Boh Singapore contacted the private-hire car companies for their comments on this issue. Both companies encourage their drivers to accept pets on rides but ultimately, they still leave it to their drivers to decide.
“We are sorry to hear about this incident. We encourage driver-partners to accept bookings involving visually-impaired passengers and their guide dogs, if it does not offend the tenets of their religion.”
“While we’d love to accept pets on all Uber trips, it is up to the driver to decide. We suggest contacting their driver as soon as their request is confirmed to ask if it’s OK to travel with a pet. To minimize mess, it’s best to travel with their pet in a crate or carrier. If they are traveling with a registered service animal, their pet is permitted to accompany them regardless of driver preference.”
What the Guide Dogs Association of the Blind Ltd (GDAB) has to say about this issue
“Our users still face challenges with private-hired cars but compared to 5 years ago, it’s a lot better now. We believe public education and the exposure to our dogs help; it reduces apprehension on the dogs soiling the cars or acting aggressively. Our users are savvy now and they will inform the drivers when they make a booking. Flagging down cabs is also easier now compared to before although there’s still room for improvement. Our users have no problem using buses and trains.”
In the UK, the Equality Act 2010 offers people with disabilities the same rights as everyone else. It is illegal for Uber drivers to reject guide dogs – if there are complaints by passengers, drivers will be barred from using the Uber app and risk losing their private-hire licence.