Denied a Cab Ride, Grieving for Who We Are…

planet of the blind

Tomorrow I’m heading to the University of Michigan to participate in a program on accessible publishing hosted by the UM Press and the University’s library. As a blind writer who teaches I know as much as almost anyone about how difficult it often remans to get access to books, journals, online publications, websites, software platforms—it’s a long list. So my hat is off the the folks in Ann Arbor for taking seriously the challenges of access for people with disabilities and putting together an ambitious workshop on accessibility.

In a mood of warm anticipation, packing for my trip from Syracuse to Detroit, I was wholly unprepared for the mean spirited encounter I had by phone with a cab company in Ann Arbor this afternoon. Just recounting what happened is an exercise so objectionable I’m forced to be brisk as the altercation was nasty.

I told the man who answered the phone I needed a ride from Detroit-Ft. Wayne airport to the U of Michigan. He was agreeable. Then I said I had a guide dog. He was disagreeable. He said:

“These dogs are stinky, they go to the bathroom, they’re dirty, I can’t have them.”

“Not the first time this has happened to me,” I thought.

“Guide dogs are allowed everywhere,” I said.

“I don’t care, now you’re going to tell me all about your rights,” he said. (Sneering, he was. Your rights…uttered as if I was some whiny baby.

“Well yes,” I said, “it’s a violation of state and federal laws to deny a blind person and his dog a cab ride.”

“I don’t care,” he said.

“You should care,” I said. “It will become a big story. Plus there’s a huge fine associated with this.”

“I don’t care,” he said.

“This will become a news story,” I said. “I myself write for newspapers like the New York Times…)

It’s hard to describe the effect this had on him. He began shouting that Donald Trump had won the presidency and “you people” (apparently meaning blind New York Times readers) “don’t matter anymore.”

He was absolutely vicious and crowing about how people like me don’t matter.

I said, “well, I’m going to turn you in to the Department of Justice.”

He said he didn’t care.

I hung up.

I went upstairs to tell my wife.

Five minutes later he called me back.

I answered.

He said, “I have allergies.”

He’d apparently shared his conversation with someone else. This was his effort to pull his leg out of a hole.

“It doesn’t matter, you still violated my civil rights,” I said.

He began abusing me again. Hot, geothermic mistreatment.

I hung up.

I posted his company’s name and phone number and a description of what I’d experienced on Facebook.

I didn’t know the man’s name.

He apparently received dozens of phone calls throughout the afternoon, including some from the press.

He’s now claiming victim status. He has allergies. He can’t be expected to take a passenger with a service dog.

The law is very clear on this matter. He doesn’t have to. All he has to do is find me a cab that “will” take me.

He chose contempt and mean-spirited bullying.

Some people on Facebook have messaged me to say he now regrets the matter.

Me too.

Whatever happened to saying, “hey, I know all about having a physical condition! I have one myself. I can’t help you but I’ll get you someone who can.”

Instead he went into a rebarbative snarl and wouldn’t stop.

He apparently told someone on FB that I ruined his day.

I have in fact filed a formal complaint with the Department of Justice and the Michigan Department of Civil Rights.

I’m still shaking. I want to close by saying I’ve heard promptly from the U of Michigan. They’re as upset as I am.

Is Trump’s ascendancy now a patented script?

If you hail from a historically marginalized group you know the answer.




Author: skuusisto

Poet, Essayist, Blogger, Journalist, Memoirist, Disability Rights Advocate, Public Speaker, Professor, Syracuse University

12 thoughts on “Denied a Cab Ride, Grieving for Who We Are…”

  1. You never tell them you have a guide dog. It prevents exactly this from happening. My husband just orders the cab then jumps in with his guide.


  2. I never disclose my guide dog to cab companies, or for that matter, anyone I don’t have to. Ever. For this reason. If they’re going to deny me, they’re going to deny me to my face. Probably wouldn’t have changed the outcome in this case, but you know as well as I do that cab companies are notorious for service denials. When I lived in Dallas, calling for a cab, or taking one, was a hundred times more stressful than it had to be, simply for the fact of potential service denials. Good on ya for filing the complaints. Sock it to ’em. I hope more than this guy’s day is ruined.


  3. So sorry to hear this, and I’m hopeful that the Ann Arbor community’s response will be somehow adequate to make up for your mistreatment. I’ve brought this to the attention of the city’s taxicab board / transportation commission and expect some kind of response at City Council on Monday night.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Steve,

    Thank you for sharing your experience! I’m terribly sorry that your experience with a taxi company in Ann Arbor was so horrendous. I currently serve as the chair of the Ann Arbor Taxicab Board and would encourage you strongly to email with the details of your encounter including the taxi company that you contacted as well as the name of the person that you describe in your post. This email can serve as a formal complaint and we can take it from there.

    Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or would like any additional information.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I am so sorry you had this experience. I glad you have the fortitude to persevere. I hope the rest of your time here in Michigan will be more welcoming and pleasant.


  6. Holy shit. It’s hard not to feel terrified. I’m going to share this on my Facebook page. I am glad that you took this seriously and reported it. I hate that you had to experience it, that we all are going to experience it. We all need to stay awake. It’s exhausting, but we must.


  7. I have no words that are fit for nice company like yours and your dog’s, although I suspect the dog has heard some choice ones. I do have words fit for the driver in several languages, although that wouldn’t technically help anything, but they are the only ones coming to mind at this hour.


  8. It was such a disappointment to hear about this incident from you this afternoon, Steve. I am glad that we’ve been able to get the Office of the General Counsel at the University involved so quickly through Jack Bernard’s agencies. There are a number of consequences for this taxi company now moving forward. But the thought that this kind of thing is happening in our community to people less able to take care of themselves is most dispiriting. Thank you for reminding all of us to stay alert to injustice and discrimination and being such a champion for legal rights.


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