Washington Lawyers’ Committee, American Council of the Blind and Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP File Lawsuit Against D.C. Taxicab Companies for Refusing to Pick Up Blind Passengers with Service Animals

(Washington, DC) – The Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs and Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, LLP announced today that they have filed a lawsuit on behalf of Eric Bridges and the American Council of the Blind (ACB) against four taxicab companies in the District of Columbia for discriminatory practices against visually impaired individuals accompanied by service animals.

The complaint, filed in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, alleges that Yellow Cab Company of DC, Inc., Grand Cab Company, Elite Cab Association, and Pleasant Taxi Club, LLC, all engaged in discriminatory practices when their drivers failed to pick up Eric Bridges, ACB Director of External Relations and Policy and an ACB member, who was hailing a cab with his service dog, General. This discriminatory treatment is all too common for blind and low-vision passengers who use service animals. As soon as taxi drivers see the service animal, they frequently drive by or refuse to pick up the passenger outright.

Press Conf-Disability Rts Taxicab Filing 3 16 15 14Matthew Handley, Director of Litigation at the Washington Lawyers’ Committee, commented, “The incidents alleged in the complaint are just a few examples of the systemic discrimination that blind individuals with service animals face on a daily basis. Like anyone else, blind persons depend on taxis and public transportation to get to work, meetings, and other daily activities. Equal access to public transportation and transportation services is a fundamental right under the DC Human Rights Act and Americans with Disabilities Act. The Cab Company Defendants have all contributed to this systemic discrimination and illegal activity by engaging in, and allowing their drivers to engage in, a pattern and practice of discrimination. This is not acceptable and will not be tolerated.”

Said Plaintiff Eric Bridges, Director of Advocacy and Governmental Affairs at the American Council of the Blind: “I often use taxis for business and personal travel. It is upsetting to have to stand outside on a cold, hot, or wet day and wait 40 minutes for a cab to stop for you simply because they don’t like your professionally trained dog, which is a mobility aid for the blind. Furthermore, not being able to see who is deliberately passing you by and report the incident because you can’t see the cab number or driver is frustrating. I am so glad that the filming done by WUSA9 has brought this issue into the public eye.”

Added ACB Executive Director Melanie Brunson, “The American Council of the Blind is glad to be a part of this lawsuit on behalf of the blind in the District. People come to DC from all over the country to attend conferences, advocate on the Hill, and as tourists. DC should be the gold standard for equal treatment and opportunity, including access to transportation services for the blind.”

In 2010, the Equal Rights Center (ERC), a national non-profit civil rights organization in DC, completed a study of taxicab hauling practices for blind individuals entitled, No Dogs Allowed: Discrimination by D.C. Taxicabs against People who use Service Dogs (2010). The ERC report concluded that there is a 50% rate of refusal of service for blind individuals with service dogs in DC. The ERC report further concluded that this discriminatory conduct requires a three-pronged response: periodic testing to ensure compliance by drivers, training of drivers and certifications that they will comply with the law, and enforcement of penalties against drivers and their taxicab companies for violations.

Taxicab companies are prohibited under federal and state law from discriminating on the basis of a disability such as blindness. Drivers are explicitly prohibited from refusing to pick up passengers with service animals. The complaint filed today is based on four incidents caught on camera by WUSA Channel 9 in a report on discrimination by taxicabs in the District of Columbia. The drivers at issue were videotaped passing Mr. Bridges and his service animal and stopping for an adjacent passenger who was sighted and did not have a dog accompanying him. The blatant discrimination seen on these videos is particularly shocking because blind individuals cannot see it themselves, nor can they identify the drivers or cabs that are passing them by.

Among other remedies, the lawsuit seeks to establish an annual random testing protocol for taxicabs in the District of Columbia. It cites recent operations run by the DC Taxicab Commission, the Anonymous Riders Program, which revealed systemic discrimination against blind individuals with service animals in the District.

Copies of the complaint are available online HERE.

Media Highlights:



Matthew Handley, Director of Litigation, Washington Lawyers’ Committee,
matthew_handley@washlaw.org; 202-319-1000

Melanie Brunson, Executive Director, American Council of the Blind,
mbrunson@acb.org; 202-467-5081

Matthew MacLean, Partner, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP,


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