“It makes you feel absolutely worthless. Every time you’re left feeling like you’re just something that someone’s trodden in,” Mr Boreham said.
“When I got home yesterday, I felt like somebody had dropped a bowling ball on my chest. My hands were shaking. I had tears running down my face, it’s just a horrible feeling.”
In Tasmania it is illegal for Uber drivers, taxi cabs, or hospitality venues to refuse service to guide dog and assistant dog users.
Mr Boreham said he has reported the incidents to Uber, but only receives “cut and paste responses” from the company.
He has sent a submission to the Disability Royal Commission and will be sending another submission to the Royal Commission into Defence and Veterans Suicide.
Mr Boreham served two years in the reserves, five years in the defence force, and has also taught drills, field craft, survival, and communications to army and air force cadets.
During his time in the defence force he developed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and a range of mental health problems, which is why he relies on his assistant dog Nomi.
“Without her I would not be here at all,” Mr Boreham said.
“She has literally saved my life.”
Guide Dog Tasmania program manager Kim Ryan said Mr Boreham’s story was distressingly common among guide dog users.
She said the laws were clearly spelled out in the Guide, Hearing and Assistance Dogs Act, but that drivers were often unaware of their legal obligations.
“We have had a number of clients over the last 12 months be denied taxis and Ubers. One in particular, that uses them all the time, was at one stage having one refusal a week,” she said.
“It caused him anxiety and made him not want to go out.
“The idea of these guide dogs, hearing dogs, and assistant dogs is to get people independent and out in the community, and these refusals are really limiting their ability to do that.”
An Uber spokesperson said they were working hard to educate their drivers and ensure that they follow the rules.
“We know service animal refusal is an issue across society, and sadly rideshare isn’t immune. Uber continues to develop strong policies to prevent this from happening, but for these policies to be effective and so we can continually improve them, it’s really important that riders report instances of service animal refusals to us,” the spokesperson said.
“Our aim is always to educate driver-partners in relation to assistance animals when they sign up to the app, through specific education modules, and then on a regular, ongoing basis.
If you or anyone you know needs help:
Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636
Lifeline: 13 11 14
Kids Helpline: 1800 551 800
MensLine Australia: 1300 789 978
Originally published as Ex-Serviceman Rick Boreham shunned by Uber drivers due to assistant dog
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