Blind Nashville man says he was denied ride from Lyft driver


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – A blind man said it has happened again. He was refused by another ride-share service driver because of his guide dog.

This time, a Lyft driver reportedly told the man he was afraid of dogs and took off. Last year, he experienced a similar incident with an Uber driver.

Normally when you see James Boehm, his guide dog Shep is leading the way, but Wednesday, he was on his own.

James Boehm (Photo: WKRN)

Like clockwork, Shep nudges Boehm’s hand and wakes him every morning, but yesterday he just lay next to the bed. He wouldn’t eat, even his favorite food, pumpkin.

“I noticed him kind of panting, kind of unusual,” Boehm told News 2.

He said called Lyft to get a ride to the veterinarian, but when the driver arrived and saw the dog, he refused to let them in.

“He said ‘Sir, I can’t take you. I’m afraid of dogs,’” Boehm said. “I said, ‘I’m sorry, sir.’ I said, ‘But he’s a guide dog. I’m blind. I’m disabled. He’s my service dog; he’s been very well trained. He’s sick.’”

The driver still refused and drove off, he added.

Boehm requested another Lyft driver and Shep was off to the animal hospital without a minute to spare.

“They picked me up, it took about another 10 to 12 minutes, which was time that could have gotten Shep to the hospital, to the animal clinic, quicker,” he said. “It put his life in jeopardy because he was bleeding internally.”

Shep has a golf-ball size tumor in his spleen, which was leaking. He was immediately rushed to surgery.

“Unfortunately the type of cancer it is its very aggressive,” Boehm said.

It turns out Shep is so sick, his owner said he doesn’t have long to live.

“They are giving him six to 12 months to live,” he said.

Boehm filed a claim with Lyft and contacted Metro police. He said he had to educate police on the state law.

“I had to state to them what the Tennessee statute law is, 62-7-112, that’s it’s a criminal offense, not a civil offense,” he explained to News 2.

Last year, former Uber driver Rolanda Douglas refused to give Boehm a ride because of the guide dog. She ended up pleading guilty and was ordered to perform community service.

After that experience, Boehm switched to Lyft.

“Never had any issues with Lyft before, the drivers seem to be a lot friendlier and informed, but unfortunately at the worst possible time I had my first incident with Lyft,” he said.

Boehm is hoping Shep gets better so he can retire him as a guide dog and let him live out his reminding life comfortable at home.

News 2 did some checking on the Lyft website. It states, “The law and Lyft’s Service Animal Policy state that drivers may not deny service or otherwise discriminate against passengers with service animals.”Click here to read the policy in its entirety.

News 2 reached out to the company, which stated, “Lyft takes any allegation of this nature incredibly seriously, and we have reached out to the passenger to refund their ride and offer our support. The law and Lyft’s Service Animal Policy state that drivers may not deny service or otherwise discriminate against passengers with service animals. Failure to abide by that policy can result in deactivation from the Lyft platform. The driver in this case has been deactivated from the Lyft platform, pending further investigation. Any form of discrimination on our platform is simply unacceptable.

“Earlier this month, we launched a partnership with the National Federation of the Blind and are working with them to better educate about our service animal policy. As part of that effort, we have designated this month as Service Animal Month.”

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