Blind Teen Denied Taxi Ride By Company - KMSP-TV

Blind Teen Denied Taxi Ride By Company

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LANDSDALE, Pa. -

Michael Coughlin lost his sight completely when he was just four years old. Now, 19, Michael is trying to get an education at Montgomery County Community College. SEPTA buses handle most of his transportation needs to-and-from classes, but sometimes he needs a taxi-cab. That's where our story begins.

It seemed simple enough: Michael Coughlin needed a cab ride last Friday afternoon from the bus stop at Main Street and Green in downtown Lansdale to his home a few miles away.

But Michael says that when he called Homestead Cab Company and informed the female dispatcher that he is blind, things didn't go as plan. He asked her to have the driver call him when the cab arrived, so the two could connect.

"This is when she started saying, 'we can't pick you up. We're going to have to cancel your ride' and blah, blah, blah, and I'm like, 'for what?' And she says, 'the driver can't assist you in any way,'" says Coughlin.

Michael says he made clear that he didn't need assistance with luggage or help getting into the cab. He just needed a call, so he and the cabbie could find each other. He says the dispatcher told him that Homestead could not accommodate his request.

In fact, Michael quotes her as saying: "'Our insurance doesn't cover this. You should be taking para-transit.'"

"I was like, 'what? I've never heard of this before and I've been taking taxis my whole life and I had a taxi from you guys earlier this week," says Coughlin.

Michael's mom says her son lives an active, independent life, despite his blindness. All he needed was a simple phone call.

"I was fuming," she says. "I was really upset that this still happens today."

Christy Coughlin says her calls to Homestead got no response. FOX 29 went to the company's Lansdale headquarters, but was told the owner was not in. The female dispatcher was not on duty when we visited.

Moments ago, Homestead owner Nick Chermela returned Bruce Gordon's call to explain that his policy of requiring an extra person to assist Michael with getting into or out of the cab will not change.

They will not pick him up without the Coughlin's supplying that 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," he said.

But both the advocacy group Liberty Resources and the Americans with Disabilities Act Mid-Atlantic help center tell FOX 29 that the taxi service should have provided Michael the ride he needed.

Christy Coughlin says that she plans to file complaints against Homestead at both the state and federal level.

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