Scoot off!

Stranded 3ft 6in comic launches transport campaign

Stand-up Tanyalee Davis has launched a one-woman campaign to overturn a ban on mobility scooters on trains and buses after repeatedly being left stranded late at night by jobsworth transport workers.

The American comic, who has a form of dwarfism, is 3ft 6in tall and uses the scooter to get from gig to gig. And although her career has taken her all over the world, she says: ‘I have never more disabled than in the UK.’

She says she was stranded at 5am in the pouring rain on a recent visit to the Edinburgh Fringe after being refused on to buses, and has previously been denied permission to board an 11.30pm train from Oxford to Reading after a Jongleurs gig.

Davis says that scooters were not included in the 1995 Disability Discrimination Act because there were not popular at the time, but they have grown in popularity as they have become smaller and sturdier.

She said: ‘I use a three-wheeled scooter, weighing 45kg (about 7 stone) because I cannot walk long distances. It allows me to be independent. I need it to help get me from point A to B, and then I get out and walk.’

But the 39-year-old says she has ‘too many incidents’ of being refused on to buses and trains. In Edinburgh, she said: ‘Fellow travellers even pleaded with the bus driver to show some compassion but he insisted that the company was not insured for scooters. He said the scooter could break down. The only way the scooter would break is if he crashed the bus!

‘A lovely man even refused to get on the bus because I was not allowed and he didn’t want me to stand all alone in the rain in the middle of the night. Eventually this kind man had to flag down a taxi for me because none of them would stop for me.’

She says she was left ‘devastated and distraught’ when staff at Oxford station refused to allow her on the train a few years ago – telling her she would have to get a cab for the 40 mile trip. She was only able to find her way back because not all train operators operated the ban, and was eventually allowed on a later Virgin train

Davis added: ‘I have been on buses with prams that are double the size of my scooter and there was no argument. Just recently, after a driver refused to let me on the bus I saw two lads get on with a dog that came up to my shoulders. It was not a guide dog but apparently that dog has more right to travel on public transport than I do. I’m just trying to get to work independently.’

‘I am now on a self appointed crusade. I want to become the face of scooter people and demand that the policy gets updated. I would like to use the wee bit of notoriety I have to get this issue to the forefront.

‘With the Paralympics approaching it will be necessary not to leave anyone on a train platform or at a bus stop. It’s all about inclusion no matter what mobility issues they have.’

A spokesperson for Edinburgh’s Lothian Buses said: ‘Under accessibility rules, scooters are defined as an alternative to public transport as they have a travel range of 12 to 20 miles.

‘Their maneuverability is not suitable for negotiating the wheelchair space on a bus.

‘In common with the majority of major bus companies and other public transport operators, we do not carry these on safety grounds as a result of the Department For Transport enquiry which concludes many are unstable and therefore unsuitable for use on public transport.’

Here is Tanyalee, performing on a bus:

Published: 24 Aug 2010

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