Uber driver investigated after allegedly refusing woman with service dog

BOSTON -- An Uber driver is accused of denying a ride to a blind woman because of her service dog before dragging her boyfriend from his vehicle.

As Boston police investigate the case, the driver has been stripped of his access to the Uber app and cannot provide rides.

Milissa Garside ordered the ride through a pilot program between Uber and the MBTA for riders with disabilities. Her boyfriend, Richard Welch, who is legally blind, came down from their Washington Street apartment to help her hail her ride.

When the driver arrived, the couple says he refused to take Garside because of the dog.

“He rolled down his passenger-side, rear window and said that he didn’t take dogs,” Garside said. “We both explained to him that according to the law and Uber’s policies he’s required to take the guide dog.”

“’No dogs. I don’t take dogs,’” Welch added. “And mind you, the service animal down here next to Milissa is clearly using a harness that’s highly reflective, says he’s a guide dog.”

Welch told Boston 25 News he reached into the open window to unlock the door, but the driver rolled up the window and took off, dragging him.

“He rolled up his window on my hand and proceed to jet to the intersection down the street here and dragged me for at least ten feet,” Welch said.

Welch fell free, he said, getting road rash on his arm and receiving five stitches for cuts on his hand.

“I was kind of freaked out, because I heard things and I didn’t know what was going on,” Garside said. “So I kept asking, ‘What happened? What happened?’”

Garside and Welch filed a police report and met with a detective on Monday.

Uber told Boston 25 News the driver lost access to his Uber app.

"We are sorry to hear about this disturbing report and we are reaching out to check on the rider's well-being,” an Uber spokesperson said in a statement. “Drivers are expected to accommodate riders with service animals and comply with all accessibility laws."

All Uber drivers must sign an agreement that requires them to transport riders with service animals, and they receive quarterly reminders of that requirement, the company told Boston 25 News.

The MBTA is also looking into the matter, telling Boston 25 News in a statement, “The MBTA takes the needs and concerns of its paratransit customers seriously. The MBTA is disappointed to learn of this reported incident, but satisfied that Uber has launched a full investigation into the matter.”

Meanwhile, Garside and Welch are upset and disappointed with they way they say blind people are often treated.

“It’s really frustrating,” Garside said. “You deal with this on a daily basis and it gets old quickly.”

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