It was a Wednesday like any other. Well, there was one small difference: I flipped a switch.
For roughly a month now, I have been a part-time driver for Uber. I’ll get into that in a second. First though, some very brief backstory.
I was born with moderate hearing loss in both ears. While I am by no means deaf, I do miss enough bits and pieces to where typical daily interaction can be difficult- especially if I am in an environment with background noise and am not facing whomever is speaking. Further, the vocal range of most female voices falls squarely where I have the most difficulty.
One of my riders on Tuesday was an astoundingly patient woman who wanted to direct me through a shortcut in lieu of using the route suggested by Google Maps. Upon reaching our destination, which I had mistakenly passed, she asked whether I was heard of hearing. She was very polite about it and clearly didn’t mean it in a disparaging way. It was simply something she noticed.
Now, back to Wednesday. Since my payments have been deposited on Wednesdays, I was poking around my account settings within the Partner app. That’s when I stumbled upon the Accessibility settings, where “I’m deaf or hard of hearing” had a toggle option.
The explanation beneath read “Turn on this feature to receive visually enhanced alerts, notify riders that you are deaf or hard of hearing, and ask riders to enter their destination.”
Wow, good on Uber. Not only are they accommodating, but they don’t make a big deal about it either. Seemed simple enough. I turned it on and waited for my first fare of the day. As soon as a rider request popped up, I immediately accepted and was on my way.
A few minutes later, the rider cancelled the request. A minute or two after that, another alert came up for the same rider. That second request was not cancelled, so I figured that it was just a one-off fluke.
Until the exact same thing happened again with the next alert.
Finding that I had some extra time on my hands, and having always been the curious sort, I went back into my account settings and turned off the setting for being deaf or hard of hearing.
After that, everything was back to running smoothly. Voila!
Now, I’m only one fella and this is by no means a scientific or statistically sound sampling. But one has to wonder whether it wasn’t mere happenstance, but something more... ugly.