A Nashville man is fighting back after an Uber driver refused to provide a ride to him and his service dog, and now the issue is headed to court.
James Boehm has been blind since 2010 and relies on his guide dog “Shep,” a 6-year-old German Shepherd, to help him get around independently.
After taking Shep to the Barfield Animal Hospital in Murfreesboro to see a veterinarian on April 28, Boehm requested an Uber ride home. He said the driver, Rolonda Douglas, arrived and refused to let him and his dog in the car. He tried to explain the guide dog was allowed in the car and would quietly sit in the back seat. However, the driver took off. Another woman at the hospital witnessed the incident and was able to provide Boehm with a ride home.
“It was the first time that had happened to me,” said Boehm, who often uses ride sharing services to get around town. “I was speechless, somewhat angry, and frustrated.”
Boehm filed a complaint against Uber and an incident report with the Rutherford County Sheriff’s office.
“Shep is a tool I use to get around,” said Boehm. “You can’t discriminate against someone who uses a guide dog or a service animal.”
Boehm said the American with Disabilities Act allows disabled individuals to be accompanied by a service dog. Tennessee statute also states violating the civil rights of a disabled person with a service dog is punishable by up to 30 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $50.
A spokesperson for Uber said all driver-partners are expected to accommodate riders with service animals and comply with all accessibility laws. The company provides drivers with information and resources on accommodating riders with disabilities.
Boehm said he wants to bring attention to the issue to help educate others on the law.
“I think awareness and bringing things out to the forefront makes a big difference,” said Boehm.
A hearing is scheduled for Aug. 9 at 8 a.m. at the Rutherford County Judicial Building. Boehm said he is expecting a big crowd of disability advocates to be there to show their concerns.