Blind woman sues Yellow Cab claiming discrimination - Quad-Cities Online: Iowa

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Blind woman sues Yellow Cab claiming discrimination

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Posted: Friday, August 7, 1998 1:00 am | Updated: 1:54 pm, Wed Apr 30, 2014.

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- When Deborah Caldbeck tried to take a cab to work in 1995, she says she was left standing at the curb with her guide dog by a driver who did not want the animal in his car.

Caldbeck said the 1995 incident wasn't the first, and she filed a lawsuit under the Americans with Disabilities Act in U.S. District Court. The case is scheduled to go to trial Monday.

``My heart started pounding and my hands began to sweat,'' said Deborah Caldbeck, of Des Moines. ``This was Des Moines, Iowa, for heaven's sake. We're a good city.''

Caldbeck is suing Yellow Cab and two drivers, contending she was discriminated against because the cab did not take her and her dog, which the blind woman must keep with her.

She said the first incident came March 14, 1995, when she was running late for her job at the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals and called a cab. When the cab arrived, the driver refused to take the dog ``because the inside had been vacuumed,'' she said.

``I got a little assertive'' and the driver changed his mind and took her to work, she said.

A month later, she requested another cab and that driver also refused, saying the car had recently been cleaned. The driver left, leaving Caldbeck and Sadie, a black labrador-boxer mix, at the curb.

Yellow Cab said the incidents were mistakes but argues cabbies are independent contractors, not employees.

Caldbeck also accused Yellow Cab in her lawsuit of keeping a computer list of customer notations that cabbies use to avoid people they do not want to pick up. Yellow Cab said it uses the notations to identify requests of customers and individuals with disabilities, which helps it provide quality service.

``If they want to have something on the list like `pull up front' or `honk when you get there,' that's fine,'' said Mary McGee, a lawyer for Caldbeck.

``But to put `have a seeing-eye dog' or `wheelchair' is like saying `blind' or `black' or `Catholic person' so cab drivers who don't want to deal with that kind of person will know in advance,'' McGee said.

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