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Paralympian denied Uber service because she has guide dog

Disability advocates say more needs to be done in enforcing provincial and municipal regulations and ensure proper training is provided to service-oriented industries.

Paralympic rower Victoria Nolan and her guide dog Alan were recently refused service by an Uber driver — an all-too-common incident.

Eduardo Lima / Metro Order this photo

Paralympic rower Victoria Nolan and her guide dog Alan were recently refused service by an Uber driver — an all-too-common incident.

A Paralympic medallist’s “humiliating” encounter has revived calls for stiffer enforcement against taxi drivers who mistreat people with disabilities.

Toronto rower Victoria Nolan, who is blind and uses a guide dog, doubts she will ever use Uber again after a driver left her stranded on the street Tuesday.

Nolan, a bronze-medal winner at last year’s games in Rio, usually takes a cab to and from her training sessions at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre in Scarborough. When she recently heard about UberAssist — a transportation app designed for people with disabilities — she decided to give it a shot.

But she was in for a shock. The driver, seeing she had a dog, refused to open the doors and simply sped away. He later called her to say he wouldn’t take a dog in his car.

“I guess the word is humiliating,” she said. “It makes you feel unimportant, like somebody saying I can’t take you because you’re in a wheelchair.”

Uber apologized and told her the driver has been removed from service, but Nolan said the issue goes beyond any one person and their behaviour.

Both provincial and municipal bylaws require licensed businesses to serve people with service dogs, but incidents of people being turned down by taxi drivers are common.

“I don’t believe this issue is being taken seriously enough,” said Angela Bonfati, executive director at the Canadian National Institute for the Blind – GTA. “It’s heartbreaking. It feels like every day somebody is being denied transportation access.”

Taxi driving is an industry with a fast turnaround, so education for drivers must remain consistent, she said. In addition, more needs to be done in effectively enforcing existing legislation, she noted.

“It doesn’t go far enough. People have to think about accessibility through a wider lens,” said Bonfati.

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