AURORA, Colo.— Terry Garrett, 36, of Aurora, can't drive because he's 100 percent blind and needs his seeing eye dog Venus to help him out.
“I use rideshares a lot to get to the gym, to get to appointments and home again because it's very convenient since the closest bus stop is a half mile away from me,” said Garrett.
Garrett reached out to Denver7 after he said two separate Lyft drivers refused him service in the past month.
“I tried to explain to him that Venus is my service dog and he kept driving around the corner over there,” said Garrett.
The second incident happened when Garrett said he was leaving the gym heading home.
"They first refused me service and then they wouldn't cancel the ride. They waited until I had to cancel,” said Garrett.
Garrett says he reported both incidents to Lyft and received this email:
“Thank you for your patience as we investigated this incident.
We contacted the driver and have educated them on Lyft’s Service Animal Policy. If the driver in question violates Lyft’s Service Animal Policy again, they will be permanently deactivated. Again, reports of this nature are taken very seriously, and we appreciate you taking the time to let Lyft know. Additionally, we’ve made sure that you have not incurred any charges as a result of this incident. I have also gone ahead and added a credit to your account of $10 for any inconvenience this incident may have caused. Please let me know if you have any further questions or concerns, or if there's anything else we can do for you here. Thanks for always being courteous to your drivers and other members of Lyft’s ridesharing community.”
Denver7 reached out to Lyft who shared this statement:
"Lyft has a strict Service Animal policy that requires all drivers to accommodate passengers traveling with service animals, and we take any allegation of this nature very seriously. There is no place for any form of discrimination on our platform and we ask that riders report issues immediately." - Lyft Spokesperson
Garrett said he got Venus from New Jersey based organization The Seeing Eye, which matches seeing-eye dogs with people who are blind or have low vision all over North America. The Seeing Eye says what happened to Garrett isn't a new thing in the Denver metro and across the country.
“We have been seeing an alarming and concerning increase in the past few years, in rideshare drivers denying us access because of our dogs,” said Melissa Allman with The Seeing Eye.
Melissa Allman with The Seeing Eye believes the reason they're seeing this happening more often is due to the increase in people needing service animals and believes some drivers fear some dogs will misbehave and aren't actually a service animal.
"It is their private vehicle, but by choosing to be a rideshare driver, they have opened up their vehicle to the public, so disability discrimination is illegal,” said Allman.
Allman believes rideshare companies need to be more accountable and take more proactive measures to educate drivers.
Garrett says despite what's happened to him, he plans to continue using Lyft.
"I'm going to keep using it because the more people we get reported who are refusing dogs, the more people we get to let us know, hey this is an issue,” said Garrett.
Denver7 also reached out to Uber about their service animal policy. Uber released this statement:
“When signing up for the Uber platform, drivers agree to transport service animals and operate in compliance with the ADA and all other applicable accessibility laws. In addition to requiring compliance with the law, our[uber.com]Community Guidelines [uber.com] prohibit discrimination in serving riders with disabilities, including service animals. Drivers also receive periodic email reminders about Uber’s US Service Animal Policy [uber.com].