real life

'An Uber driver today refused me service.' Rachael Leahcar is sick of being discriminated against.

“Everytime I order an Uber or a taxi or try a new restaurant it’s always in the back of my mind.  I am wondering am I going to have to put up a fight today to go in here or use this service?”

Adelaide singer songwriter Rachael Leahcar is legally blind, and is accompanied everywhere she goes by her guide dog Ella.

Ella wears a harness, high vis and has a guide dog medallion proudly around her neck, and yet everywhere Rachael goes she still gets pushback.

Side note: Nas Campenella is blind. Here, she explains how she does her job as a newsreader. Post continues after video.

Video by MMC

“It’s really stressful, it makes me think why haven’t people got the message yet? There’s got to be something we can do,” Rachael told Mamamia.

Last week, Rachael and her Nonna were on their way to a show at the Adelaide Fringe Festival.

“It was already a bit of a stressful day because we’d caught the wrong tram and we were running late,” she explained.

She had called an Uber, and annoyingly (but not uncommonly) the driver had parked across the road from the point Rachael had placed in the app. A stranger helped her locate the car.

“I was taking off Ella’s harness [ready to get in the vehicle] when he said “I don’t take dogs”. I explained to him this is a guide dog and I was already starting to feel the anxiety that comes with confrontation, because I’m not a very assertive person,” said Rachael.

He wasn’t having a bar of it. “He actually told me it would be too expensive to clean his car.

“I said you’re comparing this [cleaning up a bit of hair] to living with a disability? I was in such disbelief, I told him I’d report him but he didn’t care.”

Rachael closed the car door and burst into tears.

“I don’t like to have to fight for my right as a legally blind person, it’s already in place, it’s a law. They follow the Uber guidelines, they sign up for this,” she told Mamamia.

Rachael and her guide dog Ella. Image: Instagram.

After complaining to the company, Rachael was told for a first offence a driver would have to watch an educational video and get 90% on a quiz, and for a second offence they'd be kicked off.

But Rachael's not satisfied with that. Despite not getting Uber very often at all, it's the second time she has had a ride refused because of Ella.

"I've asked them if they can do that quiz before they even start as a driver, so they understand the rules of Uber and the law," she said.

Rachael has just found out about Uber assist, which she'll probably use from now on. But she points out - she shouldn't have to.

You can catch up on today's news here. Post continues after podcast.

"I don't need a big car - I don't have a wheelchair or anything. Ella goes in the front footwell, she's fully trained and she will leave little to no mess," she said.

Rachael doesn't particularly like having to push and stand so strongly on this matter, but she's got a platform and she's prepared to use it.

"It's so common, and that's why I am speaking out. I don't know anyone with a guide dog who hasn't experienced this. I just wish it would stop happening.

"I know that's unrealistic - because it's so common, so I want to raise the awareness so it happens less," she told Mamamia.

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