SAN ANTONIO — A Lyft driver was banned from the app after allegedly refusing a blind woman a ride over her guide dog, Lyft confirmed to KENS 5 on Sunday.
Melissa Padron said she was trying to run an errand earlier this week and instead of taking the bus, she decided to schedule a Lyft so that her guide dog, Cameo, wouldn't have to bear the heat.
"I opened (the truck door) and he he says, 'stop, I don't have a license for dog,'" Padron recalled. "And it didn't click. At first I was like, 'Huh?' And he said, again, 'I don't have license for dog.' And so that was when I started recording."
In the video recording Padron shared with KENS 5, the driver is heard telling her "I don’t have a license for animals," before she elaborates that Cameo is her service dog. The driver is heard repeating himself and Padron tells him he may not refuse her service because of her service animal and that she will file a complaint. Finally, Padron tells the driver "OK," before closing the door and walking away.
KENS 5 reached out to Lyft, which sent the following statement:
“There is no place for any form of discrimination on our platform. Lyft has a strict Service Animal policy that requires all drivers to accommodate passengers traveling with service animals, and we take any allegation of this nature very seriously. We have permanently removed the driver from Lyft and have been in touch with the rider."
Padron said she's satisfied with the swift action, but said the incident should've never happened.
"I just want to lead as normal of a life as every other sighted person who can drive," Padron said. "You know, I just wanted to run a quick five minute errand. If I could drive, I can just hop in my car, drive to my location, run my 5 minute errand and come back. Instead, I had to wait fifteen minutes for this Lyft ride. I had to get humiliated and discriminated against because I choose to use a service dog who enables me to be independent, and then had to go through the whole complaint process."
Padron said she's blatantly been refused service on at least one other occasion because of her guide dog. She added that her and her fiancee's visual impairments have made for uncomfortable experiences and have drawn rude comments.
"'Oh, wow. I didn't know you can have kids.' 'I didn't know you can care for kids.' 'I didn't know you can take the bus and travel with your kids. How do you do that?' You know?" Padron explained. "And often times it's, we are at a restaurant and, say we have a sighted friend or family member with us, and the the waiter or waitress will go, 'OK, so what do they want?' As if I am incapable of speaking for myself or ordering for myself. And so it's a lot of just people not realizing that those who are blind or visually impaired are independent and capable of having a voice and speaking up."
Padron said it's important for people to speak up if they are ever subject to discrimination.