Uber has a long history of negligence as its drivers actively discriminate against riders on the basis of gender, disability status, and race. It cannot be allowed to go on unchecked any longer. Uber’s “policies” regarding anti-discrimination are vague and, from the public eye, rarely enforced against drivers who violate them, especially in cases of disability discrimination. Additionally, Uber’s status as a ride operator in multiple countries, coupled with the fact that it is a multi-billion dollar corporation appears to make executives believe that we, the consumers that put them in their precarious position, don’t care about this track record. We do, and we won’t rest until justice is done and publicly disclosed in these cases.
Uber’s discrimination starts at the top, as it does in most Fortune 500 companies (rank #281 as of 6/2/21). Only three members of the eleven-member executive team are women, and they work in female-dominated areas (namely communications and diversity roles) and have no other place in the company. Uber’s misogynistic and ableist values continue all the way to the bottom of the company, as Uber’s hiring process for drivers (who serve as “independent contractors” and are not working directly under or with others at Uber) does not question how a prospective driver would react to having a disabled or LGBTQ+ rider or provide education to limit prejudice and explain how situations like those should be handled, which leads to instances of mistreatment of disabled, LGBTQ+, and non-white people.
A friend of mine named Reem Abdulkader exposed me to an incident that happened to her friend, Engy Haytham’s, family in Egypt which led me to the decision to cover Uber’s consistent malpractice in the United States and across the world.
In the interest of full disclosure, though I have done my own research and created my own objectives with this piece, Reem worked with me from the start, provided facts and objectives for Engy’s story. Engy and other people’s stories I have mentioned were allowed to review this piece prior to publication. All participants in this article have signed and dated media release forms. All content in this article is protected under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.
Engy’s story starts with her brother Seif, who is autistic. Many autistic people require structure and routine and have meltdowns (categorized in Seif’s case as causing response ticks and faint crying) when things like routines get interrupted. To accommodate Seif’s disability, his mother made a simple and totally reasonable request: for the driver to take a route that fits better within Seif’s typical routines. The driver rudely declined and said, “get him a car with a driver, don’t request an Uber” as he kicked the two of them out and sped off, leaving them stranded on the side of the road.
Uber has no physical building, contact phone number, or effective means of contact in Egypt for passengers or drivers, making it extremely hard for Engy or her family to report the incident or get a response. Multiple drivers told us that the only way to get a quick or effective response from Uber in this situation would have been to lie about the situation and say something “more serious” happened, such as a car wreck. They also affirmed that the only way they can contact an Uber representative is through the app, and that getting a response takes very long.
Uber finally responded to a request for comment by the family with a non-apology citing “internal reviews” and “confidentiality” when pressed to elaborate on specific actions they have taken to make things right. This “apology” came only after the story went “viral enough” after Engy wrote a Facebook post detailing the incident.
Transparency on all accounts and having access to public copies of anti-discrimination and sexual harassment policies are very important and should be expected by all Fortune 500 companies. Furthermore, there should be a public list of the hiring criteria used in Egypt, an Egyptian method of contact within Uber, a legitimate response and clear action in the case of Engy’s brother, and a legitimate apology for emotional trauma caused to Engy and her family.
Seif’s story is an unacceptable example of one of the many “disability horror stories” that come from Uber riders in the United States and around the world. Emily is a friend of mine here in the United States with multiple disabilities that require her to use a wheelchair, which is sometimes a problem with Uber’s drivers who sometimes see her as a liability and aren’t provided training or know-how to fold up her wheelchair. Emily told me that drivers have told her that there is a way to request accessible rides and accommodations beforehand, but neither she or I have been able to find that option anywhere in the app. She also reports being denied rides or having drivers complain about her disabilities and need for a wheelchair throughout the ride. This is a very common occurrence in the United States that receives copy/pasted statements and no action in response unless you can make the story “viral enough” to begin affecting Uber’s bottom line.
I will not dispute that Uber is an important service provider to those who need rides and assistance in getting from place to place. It’s sometimes the only way a person has to navigate. But, Uber, as an international multi-billion dollar corporation, has a responsibility to make it’s service as accessible and safe as possible, in all areas it serves. Right now, it is failing to meet that responsibility. I urge you to boycott Uber if you are able and join me in raising a stink about issues like the ones I’ve laid out here until they are forced to respond and take decisive action and publicize actions they are taking to stop issues like these from happening so frequently.
If an Uber representative would like a comment included in this story, I urge you to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will also connect you with Ms. Abdulkader, Ms. Haytham, and Ms. Pember so we can work together to address their issues and create the changes I aligned above.
Thank you all for reading, and I once again urge you to boycott Uber if you are able and join me, Emily, Engy, and Reem in raising a stink about issues like the ones I’ve laid out here until Uber is forced to respond and take decisive action and publicize actions they are taking to stop issues like these from happening so frequently.