Be Safe: Tips for Blind or Visually Impaired Persons Using Ridesharing Services like Lyft and Uber
Whether or not good public transportation exists in a particular city or town, blind and visually impaired persons increasingly are relying on services like Lyft Uber and other similar ridesharing services for many reasons. These services provide timely rides with costs that usually are quite reasonable. Additionally, these service providers seek to keep drivers and passengers safe. Background checks are part of the process of becoming a driver for such a platform. Cars must meet certain requirements and receive inspections to assure they are safe and reliable. Lyft's safety standards emphasize these points. Uber has a safety page and additional pages discussing driver and passenger safety.
Blind and visually impaired persons, however, can and should take further steps to ensure they can ride safely when using these services. We welcome additional tips which you can leave below in the comments section. Nevertheless, here are a few that I have noted now that I have used ridesharing services.
First, if you have usable vision, use it to your advantage. When you schedule a ride with a ridesharing service, you get valuable information, namely the driver’s name, color and type of car and license plate number. If you can visually determine any of these things yourself, you increase the chance that you will locate your driver, especially if you are in a crowded or unfamiliar area.
Second, know where you are and where you are going. Of course, if you are leaving home, work or another familiar place, this concern is not a concern at all, but if you are going somewhere new, make sure you know the address and/or nearby landmarks. The ridesharing apps allow you to enter your destination, and you can use dictation to do it. So, for instance, if you are going to a particular store but do not know the complete address, you can type or dictate the store name and the name of the street, and the app should find the correct one and let you double tap it to select it. If you don’t know the street name, the app may give you a list of available stores with the corresponding name, but there is no guarantee that the app will display the correct store. Therefore, it is best if you at least know the right street name so that you don’t go to the wrong location or to one that is far away from your home.
Third, be sure to identify your driver. Your driver may say “Lyft!” “Did you ask for an Uber ride?” or something similar. Whatever the driver says, even if they call you by name, ask the driver if their name is the one shown on the app. In a situation where several people may need rides, you want to take the correct ride. If you make the error of taking the wrong vehicle, someone else may receive an unauthorized charge on their method of payment; if someone does this to you, then you will likely face the same situation.
Fourth, be ready when your ride arrives. Ridesharing apps show you visually where your driver is located. This visual information is not necessary, though, if you want to know approximately how far away your driver is since the apps show the number of minutes away the driver happens to be at any given time. Lyft and Uber differently handle the way they let you know that your driver has arrived. Uber uses notifications rather than texts, a setting which you may or may not still be able to change. Also the app displays a message that your driver is “arriving now” just before they actually do arrive whereas with Lyft you get a text, and the message “Your driver has arrived” displays on the app. It is essential that you are ready as your driver may not see you. Fair or not, the driver may start the ride before you enter the vehicle, and once the ride starts, you are being charged.
Fifth, remain alert for any signs of trouble. While the likelihood that you will be put in danger by a driver is probably minimal, remain alert nonetheless, especially in a new area or with a driver you have not ridden with previously. If you have a service animal, make sure it enters the car safely and is in securely before closing doors. You are responsible for your animal’s safety; avoid injuries of any kind to your animal due to closing doors without noticing if the animal is securely in the vehicle. In an unfamiliar area, you can learn information from a helpful driver; you may be able to ask about landmarks, stores, restaurants or anything else in the town that interests you.
In summary, ridesharing services succeed when both drivers and passengers remain safe, but you as a visually impaired person should take extra steps to ensure your safety. Be alert, prepared and aware of your surroundings being certain to let your driver know where you need to go. By following these guidelines, you should have excellent experiences with ridesharing services.