A blind social entrepreneur is bring a legal challenge against ride-hailing company Uber after more than 100 refusals to pick him and his guide dog up.
Dan Williams, who is gradually losing his sight due to a condition called retinitis pigmentosa, is being supported in the action by the Equality and Human Rights Action.
Mr Williams delivers visual impairment awareness training for organisations and workplace assessments for employees with sight loss through his social business, Visualise Training and Consultancy.
He said the refusals had caused him to miss or be late for appointments and negatively impacted his business reputation “as well as creating huge anxiety and additional mental health challenges”.
Mr Williams said: “A regular scenario is that I book an Uber ride and on arrival, the driver either spots me and Zodiac [his guide dog] and drives off or pulls up and refuses to allow us into their car.
“I always remain calm and professional and explain that it is illegal under UK law as a guide dog is classed as a mobility aid, just like a wheelchair. I then started to message drivers to inform them that I have a guide dog which resulted in cancellations and would often message 2 or 3 drivers before one would actually accept the job.”
He added: “Some people ask me why I keep using Uber, but this is a systemic issue that includes private hire taxi firms too as documented widely on social media and if something isn’t fair, I’ll do my very best to bring about changes.
“Uber is actually a very useful service for people with visual impairments as it avoids the need for cash and struggling to read meters, offers good value through fixed pricing, is UK wide and journeys can be tracked easily on smartphones.”
His lawyer, Chris Fry of Fry Law, said: “I’m pleased that Dan has decided to pursue this case as I know of many people who are treated in the same way and just put up with it. I’m very hopeful that together, we can make a positive impact on the taxi sector as a whole that will benefit the 2 million people living with sight loss in the UK.
“We think that Uber hanging its drivers out to dry shows an abrogation of responsibility. They are the service provider and are therefore responsible for providing an Equality Act compliant service.”
Local Government Lawyer has approached Uber for comment.
However, the press release issued on Mr Williams' behalf said the company had issued the following statement: “It is totally unacceptable for drivers to refuse to take a guide dog and we investigate every report.
“Licensed private hire drivers must carry service animals in their vehicle. We highlight this obligation to all drivers before they start using the Uber app and often send reminders. Any driver who is found to have refused to take a service animal will permanently lose access to the app.”