Legally blind man says Uber driver refused to allow service dog in car

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A legally blind Austin man said he was denied service from an Uber driver because he had a service dog with him.

Dimitrios Kouniaris was born with congenital glaucoma. Three and a half years ago, he was given a guide dog, Margery, a black Labrador Retriever who has made getting around much less dangerous.

“When I tell people she is my good pair of eyes, she stops at curbs, she notifies me if there is an obstacle crossing the street, she notifies me if there's a car coming, she finds doors,” said Kouniaris.

When Dimitrios is traveling further than he can walk, his options are limited.

“I rely on the city buses and I rely on Uber and Lyft to get to where I need to get to,” he said.

Thursday, the duo was leaving Austin Community College and Kouniaris requested an Uber. When the driver arrived, Dimitrios knew something was wrong.

“He expressed concerns with the dog and I told him that it's my service dog and I didn't want him to lose his job so not to make it any more complicated,” Kouniaris said. 

Federal law requires businesses or organizations to allow people with disabilities to bring their service animals in any area customers are allowed, that includes cars operated by ride hailing drivers, but Dimitrios said explaining that and showing Margery's service dog license to his driver didn't help.

“He drove off while I was holding onto his door,” said Kouniaris.

Dimitrios said he was lucky he wasn't seriously hurt.

“Even up to this day, when I reflect on that and I talk about that, it puts tears in my eyes. Not because of the refusal, but it's the fact that we almost got injured,” Kouniaris said.

Kayla Whaling, a spokesperson for Uber, sent us a statement regarding the incident: "Drivers are expected to accommodate riders with service animals and comply with all accessibility laws. We've removed this driver's access to Uber and have reached out to check on the rider's well-being and are grateful he was not injured."

“Them firing the driver is great, but what if that driver goes and works for RideAustin?” asked Kouniaris.

Dimitrios said he has also notified police because he wants to make sure the driver doesn't hurt someone else.