Uber driver fined for refusing to take a passenger’s guide dog

Technology was supposed to simplify the world. Media is supposed to explain it. In many ways both have made it more complex.

Bogota Uber driver with app running on dashboard. (Image via Wikipedia entry on Uber, CC. 2.0)

CHARLOTTE, N.C., April 25, 2016 – Uber is catching heat again. This time it’s not from cab companies or disgruntled drivers. Rather, it concerns blind people and guide dogs. As we have come to know so well these days, this UK story is more about what it doesn’t say than what it does.

The online version of Britain’s Daily Mail reports that 23-year-old Jade Sharp has begun a campaign against Uber drivers who deny her transportation because she is blind and has a guide dog. In her one-woman crusade, she was recently successful in winning a conviction against Mohamed Mohamoud, a 51-year-old Muslim Uber driver who was zapped with a $2,200 fine for his refusal to driver Sharp and her guide dog.

Four of eight cases are pending, but the other three have also resulted in guilty verdicts.

Ordinarily this would be an interesting bit of water cooler chatter. But it is not the end of the story. What the Daily Mail fails to mention in its article is that finding a dog in Saudi Arabia is almost as difficult as finding a church. Muslims hate dogs.

Whether the Daily Mail conveniently left that fact out of their story or whether it is just another example of political correctness to quell establishment fears of Islamophobia is a matter of conjecture. What it does show is that it is increasingly more difficult to obtain the facts of any news story in our contemporary world.

Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch cites several examples in Islamic writings where dogs are mentioned in a negative manner.

Once Gabriel promised the Prophet (that he would visit him, but Gabriel did not come) and later on he said, “We, angels, do not enter a house which contains a picture or a dog.” — Sahih Bukhari 4.54.50

According to the transcript of the case, Sharp and her dog, Brodie, hired an Uber driver in South London at approximately 9:30 p.m. Sharp, who was born blind, called her driver to inform him that she would be traveling with her guide dog.

It should be noted that for all of Uber’s so-called “advanced technologies,” there are numerous glitches in its app that do not take into consideration simple everyday alerts for rider or drivers. In this instance the only way Sharp could notify her driver was by phone:

She told Mohamoud: “I have got a guide dog travelling with me.”

He said: “I don’t take pets.”

And she replied: “He is not a pet, he is a working dog. He is my eyes.”

She then threatened to report him to Uber, to which he replied: “Fine, report me to Uber.”

Sharp told the court: “About 10 seconds later I got a notification on my phone that the trip had been cancelled by the driver.”

He claimed he did not understand Brodie was a guide dog and refused pets on the grounds it would set off his allergies.

Like so many aspects of the world in which we live today, Uber bases the bulk of its operational techniques on theoretical hypotheses rather than real-world, common sense solutions. Frequently the two concepts clash because Uber thrives in a contemporary technological world where Uber believes that computers are the answer to every problem.

District Judge Jeremy Coleman, who ruled on the case, said, “I listened to the defendant with care but I don’t believe what he said to me.”

In virtually every ride, an Uber driver undertakes there is some aspect, no matter how small, that makes that individual ride unique. Uber’s philosophy is that all rides and riders are the same and therefore there are no extenuating circumstances. Thus everything can be resolved by the touch of a fingertip on an app.

For example, Uber does not take into consideration traffic, construction, accidents, unmarked or confusing destination markings, accurate travel times and it certainly cannot determine the mood of a rider simply by looking at an icon on a cell phone.

Certain things can, indeed, be improved by technology, but common sense should always take precedence, and the Daily Mail has a journalistic obligation to tell the complete story.

Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award-winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe.

Taylor is founder of the Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)

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