In the past few years, we know that some riders with assistance animals have felt disheartened with their experience on the Uber platform, after being refused trips by drivers because they are travelling with an assistance animal. 

While we know the vast majority of drivers do the right thing, assistance animal refusal is simply unacceptable. Riders with assistance animals have the same rights as any rider to access the services they need, including being able to book any kind of Uber trip, and travel with their assistance animal from A to B.

Uber recognises the vital importance of safe and reliable transport to access services, maintain economic independence and social connections. The distress of being refused service because of an assistance animal is not something that we take lightly, and we are committed to continually improving the experience for riders with assistance animals on our platform. 

We have worked for many years to improve the experience of people with assistance animals and  educate driver-partners about their legal obligations, however clearly misconceptions amongst drivers still exist.

This week we are implementing a number of new and enhanced measures to ensure driver-partners are aware of their obligations, and the consequences that follow refusing service to a rider with an assistance animal.

In consultation with industry experts such as Vision Australia and riders with assistance animals, we have developed a bespoke video learning course to educate driver-partners on their obligations around assistance animals. With real life accounts from riders who travel with assistance animals, industry advocates and commentary from driver-partners, the education unpacks some of the common misconceptions that still exist around assistance animals.

This education will be compulsory for all driver-partners on the Uber platform to complete before the end of May, and they will not be able to go online on the Uber platform until they complete this course. This will be supported by an increased number of in-app reminders and communications on driver-partners’ obligations. 

While we are hopeful that the rollout of this education will help address misconceptions, if we still get reports of driver-partners knowingly refusing service to a rider with an assistance animal, we will take further action. These drivers will be required to complete a knowledge check with 100% success to regain access to the Uber platform. If this is not achieved, they may lose their access to the Uber platform permanently.

Emma Foley, Director of Mobility Operations at Uber Australia and New Zealand said: “Assistance animal refusal is unacceptable, yet it’s a consistent issue in the industry. By implementing new measures focussed on ensuring all drivers are aware of their obligations, and consequences for those that ignore them, we hope to prevent this happening as much as possible,”

“This new education is not set and forget. Through continued monitoring and engagement with our driver-partners and the disability community, we will assess our progress and work to keep reducing instances of service animal refusals on the Uber platform.”

Chris Edwards, Director of Government Advocacy at Vision Australia said: “It’s vital for drivers to understand that Assistance Animals are not pets. They are accredited animals that are highly trained, vaccinated, clean and not aggressive. They play many different roles for people with disabilities, and are a lifeline in helping them to move around the community safely and with confidence. The law is very clear that assistance animals are allowed in all modes of transport, yet time and time again members of the assistance animal community are treated poorly when taking public transport,”

“It’s great to see an Uber taking a firm stance on this issue, and I hope others across the transport mix follow suit, so that we can start to see a reduction in assistance animal discrimination, and help people with disabilities move around with the same independence and freedom as everyone else.”

The increased focus follows the introduction of Uber’s Service Assistance Program (SAP) in 2021, which invites riders with an assistance animal to voluntarily opt-in to access features that are designed to improve their experience on the Uber platform, and builds on Uber’s policies and procedures to respond to assistance animal refusals. 

Emma Foley continued: “In addition to implementing firmer measures to prevent assistance animal refusals, we are committed to doing our part to raise awareness of the legal obligations around assistance animals amongst drivers and the industry more broadly. We look forward to continuing to work with advocates such as Vision Australia and riders part of our Service Animal Assistance Program, in tackling assistance animal discrimination across point-to-point transport.”