Written by Trinda Navarro
Traveling with a service dog is hard enough. But when you add the extra stress of a sour faced driver, who won’t allow you to enter their vehicle until you show papers, or a driver convinced the dog won’t fit, or a driver afraid of hair on the seat, I could go on and on … but you get my point.
I have only recently been using Uber to get from point A to point B. My girlfriend, however, uses them regularly and has used them most her life. She is legally blind, and she and her guide dog use Uber to get to work, go shopping, run errands, you name it. I have been tagging along with her since my car has been in the shop.
The first few rides went smoothly, both of our service dogs curled at our feet, completely behaving. However, it didn’t take long to encounter my first access issue. A truck pulled up to pick us up, and the driver rolled his window down and said, “No dogs.” We replied that they are trained service dogs. After what seemed like an eternity of telling him the laws, he finally let us in, but not without saying, “They better not pee.”
As he sped off to get us home, you could cut the tension with a knife. Not only was I outraged and sad, but part of me was embarrassed. The entire ride home I thought to myself, “It took me years to train this dog, he isn’t going to mess your car up.” Unfortunately, with one access issue after another, I learned just how much these drivers don’t know the law.
Then I learned something that made it worse: after talking to my girlfriend about it she told me something that really rubbed me the wrong way. You see, with Uber you can rate your drivers, but they can also rate you as a rider. My girlfriend worked hard to get her stars and was able to maintain them even after her fair share of access issues. However, after my service dog and I started accompanying her, she informed me that her rating as a rider had fallen by .5 stars! I couldn’t believe it. It’s truly a shame that just having an extra (trained, well-behaved, service) dog along can make such a difference in how you’re treated and perceived by others.
Luckily, not all Uber drivers are like this. In fact, most are pretty nice and enjoy having the dogs along. Every now and then we get a driver who has never had riders with a service dog. They are usually amazed at how well behaved they are. I love being able to say, “This is how they should act,” as well as explaining the laws, process of getting a service dog, and at the end of my ride I try to hand them an info and law card. To me, education is key. I may not be able to educate them all, but maybe I’ve made a difference for other handlers to ride a little easier.