GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. - A Gwinnett County woman says an Uber driver left her behind because of her service dog.
“It’s just frustrating that I can’t be treated equally like other people,” said McClain Hermes.
Hermes is a star Paralympic athlete from Metro Atlanta.
The blind 18-year-old said she now wants to advocate for others who are experiencing what’s happened to her at least three times -- ride-share cancellations due to her travel needs with a service animal.
The latest incident happened in Orlando on Sunday when Hermes was traveling with her mother. She says her Uber driver passed the pair before canceling the ride and refusing to pick up his phone.
“He saw me approaching the car with a guide dog and he drove off,” Hermes said.
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It’s illegal and against Uber policy to deny service to riders with service animal needs. Uber’s policy further states violations can result in drivers being taken off the app.
About an hour after telling Channel 2 investigative reporter Nicole Carr about the incident Monday, Hermes received a notice from Uber saying they’d investigated the incident, and spoken with the driver, whose account has been reactivated after he acknowledged his obligation to adhere by accessibility laws.
A second offense could result in a permanent account deactivation, according to the notice.
Hermes said the response was still frustrating because it seems, “Every time I contact Uber, it’s always ‘We’re looking into it,' and they never find their drivers at fault.”
While an Uber spokesperson told Carr the company had never received another report from Hermes, Hermes said she’d used family members’ apps in previous, recent incidents that ended with a cancellation.
The incidents happened in other states, and Hermes said another driver told her she was allergic to the dog, in which Hermes replied the dog is hypoallergenic.
In a separate statement to Channel 2 Action News, an Uber spokesperson said the following:
“We are upset to hear about this rider’s experience and have been in touch with both parties upon learning about this. Drivers who use the Uber app agree to accommodate riders with service animals and comply with their independent obligations under accessibility laws."
The statement went on to describe Uber's investigation process, and provided a link to a video about passengers with disabilities that drivers are required to view.
For Hermes, who is getting ready to rely on ride-share and public transportation as a college freshman, the incidents have been disheartening.
“I might have to go through two, three, four, five Ubers before I get a person who is kind enough to take me,” she said. “I would love for, I guess more education with drivers and the public. He's a service animal. Don't touch him. Don't talk to him. Let me ride in your car.”
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