New Analysis: DC taxis warned each other during WUSA9 blind passenger test

10:23 PM, Sep 11, 2013   |    comments
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  • WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- A new analysis of undercover video shows DC Taxicabs were warned in the middle of a WUSA9 test of service refusals to a blind passenger.

    Still nearly half fail our test.

    "I'm angry," said Day Al-Mohamed, a blind Washington attorney who tested cabs during the WUSA9 operation with her service dog. "I'm angry because you expect at least a little better, and now it's become a game."

    In contrast to earlier refusals, taxi drivers began regularly stopping for Al-Mohamed shortly after a passerby offered her help on the street.

    "You need help, go ahead," the unknown man said to Al-Mohamed in English and then began speaking in a foreign language to the driver.

    "I thought it was fine," Al-Mohamed said. "We had a Good Samaritan who opened the door, got in, thought that was great."

    We later learned the language was Amharic, a main language of Ethiopia.


    Translated into English the conversations seem to encourage drivers to warn others, inform them about the blind passenger, and warn about DC taxi inspectors who were standing by to stop drivers who failed our test.

    "Listen, tell all the guys, it's on purpose," a translator interpreted the man as saying. "They're holding people, or detaining, tell everyone, tell all the guys, spread the word."

    A few minutes later, a second driver pulled up to a third cab as Al-Mohamed was getting in, also speaking Amharic.

    "You see this one is a blind person," a translator interpreted the taxi driver as saying to the other cabbie.

    "They're about to do something like that?" The other cabbie asks.

    "Yeah, they're up to something," said the second driver.

    After those conversations more and more cabs began picking UP our blind passenger and her dog.

    Our WUSA9 undercover team became suspicious at one point in Adams Morgan when taxis began consistently stopping for our blind passenger.

    "This is the sad, sad part," Al-Mohamed said. "This is where I thought this is a great cab experience. I'm like great, we have some cabs that are doing the right thing...Not true."

    When we moved to a Georgetown location, cabs began passing Al-Mohamed at a similar rate to before the passerby opened her cab door in Adams Morgan.

    In an earlier test, out of 42 cabs tested, using passengers with wheelchairs or guide dogs, 20 cabs - or 48% - either drove right past the passenger with a disability in favor of another fare, took them to the wrong location without warning, or charged an illegal extra fee.

    We contacted the cab companies of the drivers involved, but none offered comment.

    Even with the warnings, eight of 19 cabs tested that night failed to pick-up our undercover passenger.

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