Tanyalee Davis had just performed at Plymouth Comedy Club, and the next day boarded a Great Western Railway (GWR) train to London Paddington.
The 47-year-old Canadian was driving her mobility scooter — she has a form of dwarfism called diastrophic dysplasia — and immediately a staff member on the platform said that she might have to move if a wheelchair user boarded the train.
“I was like, here we go again,” Davis said in a YouTube video, recalling the day that left her “personally and publicly humiliated” on July 15.
Within an hour, trouble stirred.
A young mother arrived on the train with her baby just before it pulled into a station in Taunton, England. She was carrying her child, and wanted somewhere to put her pram. After “kicking up a fit” with staff, she grew frustrated that Davis was parked in the spot reserved as a disability space.
The guard asked Davis to fold the scooter up and move on.
In footage recorded by her husband Kevin Bolden on his phone, Davis can be seen attempting to maneuver the vehicle to give up her space to the pram.
“He basically said, fine, I’m calling the police, and this train will be stopped at Taunton,” Davis said. “Then he made an announcement over the tannoy that it was the woman in the mobility scooter that was causing problems, and we would be delayed indefinitely.”
“It was humiliating and I cried for most of the journey home,” Davis said, adding she felt sick of having to deal with situations like this all of the time. “I don’t know what it is about this country, but they really make you feel disabled.”
Tanyalee Davis has previously performed on TV shows The Last Leg and Live At The Apollo — and has taken her comedy tour all over the world. She’s also a disability campaigner, and director of the anti-bullying charity Gr8 As U R.
The Guardian reports that the footage left GWR staff “collectively horrified”.
“We got it wrong, it made no sense,” said Dan Panes, who leads external communications at GWR. “A wheelchair space is a wheelchair space, it’s not for luggage or pushchairs.”
An investigation will be launched into the incident, although it’s not confirmed if any action will be taken against the staff member.
There’s since been a wave of support for Davis across social media.
My friend @TanyaleeDavis uses a mobility scooter & today she was shamed by Great Western Railways - a pram boarded & when tanyalee refused to move, @GWRHelp threatened to call the police & chuck her + her partner off. This is not pushchairs vs wheelchairs. This is discrimination. https://t.co/w1CT7N4F6X— Liz Carr (@thelizcarr) July 15, 2018
@TanyaleeDavis I am so, so sorry you had to go through this experience. I am a wheelchair user, but I don’t use public transport very often, mainly because I don’t get out much. When I do, I fear an experience like this. Getting about should not be made more difficult than it is— Luisa Sutherland (@Lals1002) July 17, 2018
@TanyaleeDavis Following you because I read the BBC article about your train journey and I want to support you and those who have similar experiences. Bang out of order. You’re brave and strong. Thanks for sharing. It’s important that you do.— Jessica Fletcher (@abydosjackson) July 17, 2018
On July 24, the UK’s Department for International Development will host the first ever Global Disability Summit in London with the International Disability Alliance and the Government of Kenya.
It aims to draw attention to what they describe is a “neglected area” of health and mobilise new commitments on disability. Global Citizen will report from the summit.
Penny Mordaunt, secretary of state for international development, announced the summit using British Sign Language (BSL) in parliament, making history as the first ever government minister to communicate using BSL from the frontbench.
Tanyalee Davis will embark on a tour called Actual Size from September — “for laughs, not tears,” she tweeted.