Judge approves Uber service dog settlement

A settlement between Uber Technologies Inc. and advocates for blind people who use service animals was given preliminary approval by a U.S. District Court judge this week.

As part of the settlement, which was approved Thursday, San Francisco-based Uber would have to take steps to prevent discrimination against certain blind users of the ride-hailing service.

The settlement resolves a lawsuit brought by the National Federation of the Blind, its California affiliate as well as individuals who use guide dogs. It would be the first nationwide class-action settlement of its kind against an app-based transportation network company, according to a news release from the plaintiffs today.

Plaintiffs alleged in the lawsuit that drivers using the Uber platform denied rides to blind people who use guide dogs, violating federal and state laws protecting rights of people with disabilities.

Uber agreed to a settlement with the plaintiffs, which may receive final approval on Nov. 10 in federal court.

Larry Paradis, an attorney with Disability Rights Advocates, said in a statement:

“This settlement sets (an) important precedent and shows that companies cannot ignore the rights of people with disabilities just because they use a new technology or a novel business model.”

Under the settlement, the company will issue an advisory to drivers about their obligations to transport riders who are disabled and use service animals and confirm they understand those obligations.

Uber also agreed to the implementation of stricter enforcement policies for drivers who knowingly deny a person with a disability a ride because they are traveling with a service animal.

The company will additionally upgrade its response system for those who file complaints regarding these instances.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit said they will test Uber’s compliance with the settlement terms over multiple years.

Mark Riccobono, president of the National Federation of the Blind, said in a statement:

“We look forward to working with Uber to ensure that all blind passengers can take advantage of the innovative transportation service it offers.”

Uber did not respond to a request for a comment on the settlement Friday afternoon.