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Man with autism kicked out of Uber after using 'Access-a-Ride' program

Collin Lewis found himself confused at a busy street corner after using RTD’s Access-a-Ride program to get an Uber to work. A driver said she felt “uncomfortable."

DENVER — A man with autism was kicked out of an Uber earlier this month after the driver said she was “feeling uncomfortable.”

Collin Lewis, 28, was left confused at the corner of Kalamath Street and West 6th Avenue where donut shop employees were able to take him in.

“All kinds of bad things could have happened,” said Andrew Lewis, whose son Collin has repeatedly used Uber to get to his job at a recycling facility.

Collin Lewis, who has autism, has been using Uber under a program with the Regional Transportation District’s Access-a-Ride, which covers trips of up to $25 dollars for people with disabilities who can’t use the conventional transit system.

He has used the Uber program more than 100 times, according to his father, without any incident until the driver kicked him out of her Uber vehicle March 8.  

The partnership between Uber and RTD has been largely successful with tens of thousands of rides since its implementation in 2021. The program allows customers to get on-demand trips instead of waiting for an RTD shuttle that can be slow and late. 

The incident with Collin Lewis revealed that Uber drivers are not notified when an Access-a-Ride customer who may have a disability uses the app. 

“You get somebody like Collin, he acts a little different than other people, you know,” Andrew Lewis said. “I’m trying to give her the benefit of the doubt, she didn’t understand, you know.”

“Yeah, I was saying nice things to the driver before Uber kicked me out,” Collin Lewis said. 

When Andrew Lewis complained to Uber, he was told by the company over an email that the female driver was "feeling uncomfortable."

After 9NEWS contacted Uber, a company spokesperson said in a statement it’s investigating the incident.

“Collin’s reported experience is unacceptable and we share in his family’s disappointment and outrage. Our community guidelines prohibit denying service to those with disabilities and we will take appropriate action,” the Uber statement read. 

RTD’s Response 

Paul Hamilton, who oversees the RTD Access-a-Ride rideshare program said there are no plans in place to notify drivers they may be picking up a customer with a disability because doing so could be illegal. 

“It would be very difficult to do that without quickly going into the territory of a HIPAA violation,” Hamilton told 9NEWS. 

Hamilton said RTD plans to reiterate to Access-a-Ride customers that Uber’s system has limits and drivers are not trained like the shuttle drivers for Access-a-Ride shuttles. 

“I think the lesson learned is that this particular customer may not be a good fit for on-demand service, at least when traveling by themselves,” Hamilton said. 

Collin Lewis and his father said they plan to continue to use the rideshare program under RTD, but hope there is some sort of communication put into place so drivers understand the clientele they are picking up. 

LaMar’s Donuts, which helped watch Collin after he was kicked out of the Uber, gave him a year’s worth of donuts after the incident. 

“They couldn’t have been any sweeter,” said Andrew Lewis who added he was thankful for the donut shop employees who were willing to help during a stressful situation. 

If you have any information about this story or would like to send a news tip, you can contact 9NEWS reporter Jeremy Jojola at jeremy@9news.com.

More stories from reporter Jeremy Jojola. 


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