As management and cultural problems continue to plague Uber, a disabled veteran visiting Manhattan reports he was turned down by an Uber driver and multiple taxi cabs because of his service dog. Jeff De Young, Jr., a military ambassador for the American Humane Association, served as a Marine in Afghanistan with an explosive-detection dog named Cena N641, a black Labrador. De Young said he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and that Cena is his retired explosives dog who helps him cope with the condition.
Based in Michigan but traveling from meetings in Washington, D.C., De Young visited New York to attend a dinner honoring Winston Churchill hosted last Wednesday by The Anglosphere Society. De Young said Cena has arthritis and a hip displacement from an explosion serving overseas, and suffered two bleeding paws after walking for miles on the hot Manhattan pavement after being rejected by Uber and the iconic, city-regulated yellow cabs alike.
“So as I arrived at Penn Station, as most visitors do when they come to New York, I hired an Uber, and when the Uber driver came to me after calling me on the phone and said he was here, as I approach and his vehicle, he sees my dog, cancels the Uber and drives away,” De Young said in an interview with Bold.
“I tried hailing a New York cab and they would lock their doors and continue driving. I even waited at a taxi stand and the taxi guy’s like, ‘hey pick him up’ and he says ‘no, no dog.’”
De Young with Cena at the Winston Churchill Dinner
After the initial rejections, De Young said he was forced to walk from Penn Station the nearly 1.5 miles to his hotel at 48th and 11th, all while carrying his luggage and toting his dog. After arriving at his hotel and dressing in his full uniform blues, De Young was rejected again, forcing him and Cena to walk another nearly two miles to the dinner location in the Murray Hill area of midtown Manhattan.
“I was in traveling clothes, but on the return trip from the hotel, I thought it would be better for when I go from to the hotel to [the dinner],” he said. “I tried to hail an Uber again, 25-minute wait, so I tried to hail a cab. The cabs won’t let me in, so I yet again had to walk another mile up midtown Manhattan just to get to my destination and that’s when his paws started bleeding …. he has arthritis and hip displacement from being blown up, so naturally his injuries are aggravated from any sort of travel like that. If you walk him a mile downtown he’s going to hurt, he’s roughly 65 years old in human years. That’s a long distance in a lot of heat.”
De Young said he was deeply disappointed by his treatment. Fortunately, once he arrived at the Winston Churchill Dinner, the horrified organizers arranged transportation for him back to his hotel.
“I felt that as an American with the rights that are afforded to me, that I was being disrespected,” De Young said. “As a disabled veteran with the rights of having a service dog I was very disrespected.”
Guidance from the Disability Rights Section of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division states that “Under the ADA, State and local governments, businesses, and nonprofit organizations that serve the public generally must allow service animals to accompany people with disabilities in all areas of the facility where the public is normally allowed to go.”
De Young with Cena during Marine service
“I think the problem lies deeper in that they don’t do enough to train their drivers on the laws,” De Young said. “I believe that every city out there that has a public transit system should have a public disabilities seminar. If the military does classes every six months for sexual assault prevention everything else like this, I can’t see why the taxi commission can’t make you do a disabilities class.”
A spokesperson for Uber told Bold after reviewing De Young’s case, including the cancellation history, per the firm’s standard procedure, the driver’s Uber account has been removed while Uber reviews this matter.
“Driver-partners are expected to transport riders with service animals and comply with all applicable accessibility laws,” the Uber spokesperson said. “We’ve reached out to those involved to look into the matter.”
Under Uber policies, drivers agree to transport service animals and operate in compliance with all applicable accessibility laws. Drivers also reportedly receive quarterly email reminders about their service animal obligations; failure to do so may result in permanent loss of access to the Uber app.
“State and federal law prohibit driver-partners using the Uber Driver App from denying service to riders with service animals because of the service animals, and from otherwise discriminating against riders with service animals,” Uber policy states. “As explained in Uber’s Non-Discrimination Policy, driver-partners who engage in discriminatory conduct in violation of this legal obligation will lose their ability to use the Driver App.”
On its Web site, Uber has a training video that clearly illustrates how to properly treat clients with service animals.
A spokesperson for the New York City Mayor said he was also disappointed by De Young’s reported treatment.
“That’s awful,” Ben Sarle, deputy press secretary for New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio, told Bold. “We care deeply about these issues because that kind of behavior is unacceptable…Again, we take this very seriously, and strongly encourage people to let us know directly through 311 or 311 online if they experience such a violation. We investigate every instance that is reported to us.”
Sarle pointed out that violating rules from the The New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission around passengers with disabilities results in fines and revocation of taxi licenses. De Young said right now he’s not looking to file for damages, though he hopes that this episode can be a learning experience for car operators.
“I honestly haven’t considered that yet,” De Young said. “I haven’t thought of it. I don’t think it’s necessary to an extent. I think the bad publicity would be enough to slap them on the wrist. I filed a lawsuit once, and that was when my arm almost got cut off in a factory accident back home … Regardless, I think it’s more of a knowledge thing that these people should understand that regardless of what their personal feelings are the law is the law.”
Carrie Sheffield is the founder of Bold. She is passionate about storytelling to empower and connect others. A founding POLITICO reporter, Carrie contributed on political economy at Forbes and wrote editorials for The Washington Times. After earning a master’s in public policy from Harvard University, she managed credit risk at Goldman Sachs and researched for Edward Conard, Bain Capital founding partner and American Enterprise Institute scholar. She earned a B.A. in communications at Brigham Young University and completed a Fulbright fellowship in Berlin.