374 79 2 LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE

Washington, DC (WUSA9) - The blind taxi passenger documented by our undercover cameras being passed by DC cabs has filed charges against four cab companies using WUSA9 video as evidence.

"We can't tell when we're being denied access." Eric Bridges with the American Council of the Blind said. "What is so frustrating about all of this…is that often times I don't know that this is even taking place."

Bridges, who is blind, was one of the passengers denied service in our test.

Despite a special website being established to report taxi discrimination, Bridges had to use an intermediary to file the complaints because while trying to file, he discovered the District's website is not accessible to the blind.

He provided WUSA9 documents showing charges against Yellow Cab, Pleasant Taxi, Grand Cab, and Elite Cab.

The DC Office of Human Rights said it couldn't confirm or deny the charges because cases are confidential unless the agency rules discriminatory practices occurred.

In our 2013 investigation documenting two blind passengers with service dogs and one man in a collapsible wheelchair, of 42 cabs, nearly half left them on the street, charged them an unauthorized extra fee, or dropped them off, at the wrong destination without warning

In response to our investigation, the DC Office of Human rights established a special online reporting page as part of an initiative to document taxicab discrimination.

RAW VIDEO: Blind man taxi investigation: http://on.wusa9.com/VbzQMX

"It's very disturbing to see that happen to someone, said DOH Director Mónica Palacio. "Especially a vulnerable population like somebody with a seeing eye dog

The passenger filing the charges, Eric Bridges, is a staff advocate with the American Council of the Blind.

Video shows him with his dog being passed repeatedly by DC cabs who stop for other passengers.

A year after our investigation, Bridges says nothing has changed on DC streets, so we described our undercover video frame by frame, while he filled out complaint forms.

He entered notes on the office of human rights complaint form as we described what happened.

When trying to send the finalized reports, he found the DC system designed to take complaints from the disabled, doesn't have software to accommodate the blind.

To finalize complaints users are required to type in the random letters and numbers known as CAPTCHA which are only displayed visually, without the option to click audio like on many websites.

"This unfortunately happens on a lot of sites," Bridges said. "The fact that they don't have an audio CAPTCHA or another way for individuals who are blind or visually impaired to deal with the security issues that they have is really disappointing and it's madding frankly"

We called the DC Office of Human Rights, which acknowledged the problem and agreed to take his complaint over the phone.

The agency accepted four official charges of from Bridges, and officials say that undercover video will be key in determining if those cabs violated DC discrimination law.

"All of that is very helpful. Because in many cases these incidents might happen very quickly, so we don't have everybody videotaping or taking pictures, it's very hard to identify the cab," Palacio said.

If the agency rules against the cabs, it has the power to levy penalties as high as hundreds of thousands of dollars. A decision Bridges feels is needed to make cabs stop what they're doing…and stop for the disabled…like him.

The DC taxi commission says over the past two months it has separately fined two drivers for service dog complaints.

Only one of the taxi companies Bridges filed against offered comment.

Yellow Cab says it will cooperating with the investigation and that it has a zero tolerance policy against discrimination.

On that inaccessible Office of Human Rights website, an official says the problem we identified is a District wide problem, and efforts are NOW underway to make it accessible to the blind by labor day.

Russ Ptacek

Investigative Reporter

WUSA*9

4100 Wisconsin Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20016

Direct Line 202-895-5553

Direct Fax 202-330-5367

24 Hours 202-865-5700

@russptacek

374 79 2 LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE
Read or Share this story: http://on.wusa9.com/1iAuJA4