Deaf Uber drivers hope the Quebec gov't will consider their livelihoods
Deaf Uber drivers are hoping Quebec’s transport ministry will take their livelihoods into consideration in the ongoing debate over the ride-sharing service.
There are more than 40 Uber drivers in Montreal who are deaf or hard-of-hearing.
They say they are at risk of losing their jobs if Quebec instates new laws that will push Uber out of the province.
“80 per cent of the deaf are unemployed and on welfare,” said Benoit Landry, who is deaf and became a part-time driver for Uber last year.
Landry said the job market often discriminates against people with disabilities, but Uber began breaking barriers last year when it started developing specific features to cater to drivers with hearing impairments.
“Uber came and they're really open-minded and the technology is high,” he explained.
As soon as a trip is requested on the ride-sharing app, instead of ringing, a flashing light will signal the driver.
Passengers also receive a notification to let them know their Uber driver will be deaf or hard-of-hearing.
Passengers are free to cancel the ride, but Landry said that’s never happened to him: His current rating on the app is 4.8 stars out of 5.
While Landry said he has nothing against the taxi industry, he insists it's simply not accessible.
In order to drive a taxi in this province, a driver must obtain a Class 4C licence, which involves a number of tests that many in the deaf community say are impossible to pass.
“We have to go to the doctor and see what's happening so the deaf person can be a taxi driver, so we have a real limitation to get in the taxi industry,” he said.
Anyone with a regular Class 5 driver's licence can become an Uber driver.
“Obviously they still need to go through a security check, background check, we look at the driver’s record also. We want it to be open to anyone,” said Jean-Nicolas Guillemette, general manager of Uber Quebec.
Guillemette said he's presented some compromises to the parliamentary commission that he hopes will help both Uber and the taxi industry co-exist.
“I think the proposal we put on the table can create a consensus,” he said.
Landry said it's not just about the extra cash he makes as an Uber driver, but also integrating deaf people in society helps raise public awareness.
“They're really alone and stay home, but they like to go out and work and get busy like everybody else,” he said.