Are you looking to start accessing popular ride shares like Uber and Lyft with your guide dog? If you are like me, you are certainly a little nervous with the abundance of negative stories online and in the news regarding guide dog denials. While it is happening across all the companies, the following tips may help minimize the ride denials and help reinforce the message that guide dog handlers are not to be feared or denied services. It is important to note that these are my tips and you are welcome to apply ones that you find helpful, however these are not required.
Request Your Ride Early
When I access a ride share I always request my ride with plenty of time to not only arrive at my destination but with plenty of buffer time in case I run into issues locating my driver or ensuring that I have arrived at the correct location. This also allows for additional time should you unfortunately be paired with a driver that decides that he or she wants to break the law by denying you a ride.
Communicate with Your Driver
Once your ride is confirmed I recommend contacting your driver to inform him or her of your specific location and to keep an eye out for you. I personally choose to send a text message informing the driver that I am visually impaired and have a guide dog. This is certainly not required, however I do this to have this in writing in case I am denied for some reason and to not waste my own time should the driver again decide to cancel the trip. I have also found that this helps to ease my anxiety about using the ride share when the driver responds positively to the text message.
3. Confirm Your Driver
You may have noticed that some users of ride shares have reported incidents in which they do not get into the correct ride share vehicle or a ride share vehicle at all. This can especially be dangerous for those of us traveling alone. To ensure that this does not happen to you ask the driver for his or her name before getting into the ride. If they ask your name before providing you with their name kindly request them to provide you with their name again for your own safety.
For those of us who use guide dogs we know that it is inevitable that our dog will leave some hair behind in the ride share vehicle. To help minimize this and remain respectful of the driver’s vehicle be sure to properly groom your dog regularly and have them sit on the floor of the vehicle as they are trained to do. I have had some drivers that love dogs insist that my dog sit on the seat and I still opt to have him sit on the floor for not only his safety but also to minimize the clean up for the driver. I have also seen other handlers even bring small towels and/or blankets to place down.
Tip Your Driver
If you have a pleasant ride be sure to tip your driver. The driver keeps 100% of the tips and I know that they appreciate them. You wouldn’t receive great service at a restaurant and leave $0 for a tip, would you? So be kind to your driver and show them the same gratitude that is common in the U.S. for many other industries.
Report Any Issues to the Ride Share Company
If you happen to have an issue regarding your guide dog be sure to immediately report this to the ride share company. Additionally, you can provide feedback, both positive and negative, to the National Federation of the Blind via their Ride Share Survey.
Ride shares have dramatically increased independence and accessibility for millions of individuals with vision impairments. Ride denials are frustrating to say the least and can often contribute to anxiety and an aversion to accessing the service. Rest assured that although denials will unfortunately happen along the way, most drivers are abiding by the company and federally mandated policies.
If you have any tips to add please be sure to comment on this article. Happy riding!