Presidential Release #475: September 2018 (English Audio)

The presidential release is a monthly audio message from President Mark A. Riccobono that highlights the current activities of the National Federation of the Blind. It is shared with every chapter of the organization.

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Items Covered

  • It is back-to-school season.
  • Thanks to our relationship with the American Action Fund, Braille calendars are now available.
  • Update on the status of ridesharing companies:
    • Lyft: We know there are some accessibility issues with CAPTCHA technology that impact submitting service animal complaints to Lyft for some people using iOS, and we have alerted Lyft to these concerns. In the meantime, Lyft does accept service animal complaints by telephone (844–250–3174). Also, we have raised several concerns to Lyft about the manner in which complaints are processed, and the outcomes of driver termination decisions based on the details that many of you have shared with our paralegals and attorneys. As for systemic numbers, our testing shows that service animal denials on Lyft are fluctuating at an average of 18 percent of test rides within a range of 14-25 percent during our testing period. That number should be considered in the context that Lyft’s overall ridership numbers appear to be in hyper growth, though we don’t have access to the exact growth numbers that Lyft closely keeps as a trade secret. We could more confidently make conclusions about the reliability of this statistic if we could increase the sample size of Lyft tests from our members over the coming quarters.
    • Uber: We have evidence suggesting that Uber is letting a significant number of drivers off with a warning when it should be automatically terminating those drivers. We have raised this concern to the third party monitor and may be heading to court in the coming months to enforce the settlement if we cannot get Uber to make some concessions and improvements on the manner in which it investigates and disciplines its drivers. In the meantime, we need you to continue testing. We urgently need you to share situations in which you complained to Uber with compelling objective evidence that the driver “knowingly” denied a service animal, such as witnesses, video footage, or text messages, and Uber nonetheless let the driver off with a warning.
    • Conclusion: Your reports of denials are all read by our legal team. We need you to continue sharing the anecdotal details of your experiences. Our team uses those anecdotes to look for fact patterns and new unanticipated problems. We need you to continue reporting all complaints to Uber/Lyft and participate in our testing program. Without your consistent reporting, the data may inaccurately show that discrimination is declining when in fact only the reporting of discrimination is declining. We know people are still being denied rides and that one denial is too many. We are actively speaking with both of these companies on a regular basis to advocate for improvements because neither company is reflecting the dramatic improvement that we would hope to see through our settlement and the monitoring work.
  • Our Pre-Authorized Contribution program (PAC Plan) allows us to give regularly to the National Federation of the Blind. This month we thanked some of the many chapters that regularly contribute.
  • October is Meet the Blind Month and October 15 is White Cane Awareness Day. This October is special because we are celebrating the tenth anniversary of our free white cane program, which distributes thousands of canes to blind people all over the United States each year. To celebrate this milestone, we’d love to hear your story about the moment you realized what a powerful tool for independence your white cane is. Share it with us on Twitter (@NFB_voice) or on Facebook (search for National Federation of the Blind). You may want to focus your Meet the Blind Month events on white cane awareness this year. Cane walks are always popular, or perhaps you could find ways to educate the public on the white cane law, which protects blind people who use white canes or guide dogs from discrimination. Keep watching our social media channels and our website for more Meet the Blind Month ideas, and let us know what your chapter or affiliate is doing by using the hashtag #MTBM. Stay tuned to social media, our website, and the Nation’s Blind Podcast for more about this October celebration of blind people traveling where we want and living the lives we want.
  • Federation Family notes
  • Customary endings 

Related Resources 

Listen to the September 2018 Release