Thankfully, beyond the odd one trying to rip me off now and then, I’ve never really had a problem with a cab company. Poor Carin has had a few minor scrapes, but I think those are mostly attributable to her having a dog. Right or wrong (it’s unquestionably wrong), I understand reactions like “aaaaaaaaaahhhhh, I’m afraid of dogs,” “aaaaaaaaaahhhhh, that dog is going to mess up my car” or even “aaaaaaaahhhhhh, I’m religious!” Things like that shouldn’t happen in these times what with all the sensitivity and accommodation training that’s supposedly going on, but they’re realities of blind life that can usually be cleared up with a simple “this is a service dog” or a “hang on a second while I call this in” in the direction of the offending driver. Outfits that are actively and unapologetically ignorant just don’t seem to be a thing anywhere we’ve lived. This, if the story of Michael Coughlin is true, does not appear to be the case in Lansdale, Pennsylvania, however.
Coughlin, 19, tried to get a ride home from Homestead Taxi, and as sometimes is necessary, let it slip that he was blind. What happened next defies any sort of logic or reason that anyone who knows anything at all about the blind could come up with. He was, he claims, told in no uncertain terms that the company has a no helper, no cab policy for blind people.
“At first, I was shocked, like, ‘Really? This is happening now?’ I had a 10 minute conversation with the dispatcher to figure out why this actually is,” he said. “They don’t cover blind people because of insurance. They were saying I need extra help getting into the car, getting out of the car, getting the seatbelt on—it’s not true. I never did need that.”
Do blind people outside of the sighted grade school system have dedicated helpers anymore? Did they ever? Serious question. They must have at some point perhaps in the early 20th century, but not in my lifetime.
The company went on to claim that this is done for insurance reasons, which as best I can figure considering they won’t provide copies of these mysterious policies to anyone means they want to ensure that they receive bad publicity by the truckload. Well, mission accomplished, friends.
And just in case you thought that this was all some kind of misunderstanding caused by a dispatcher going rogue, Homestead owner Nick Chermela is here to put an end to such silliness.
Fox 29’s Bruce Gordon spoke to Chermela Monday, who told him that he will not be changing his company’s policy.
Gordon reported at the 6 p.m. Monday newscast that Chermela said they would not pick up Michael without an extra helper. Chermela told Fox 29 that his drivers are not qualified to deal with a blind passenger.
“We’re not a para-transit company,” Chermela told Gordon.
With any luck, soon you won’t be a cab company, either.