As I’m sure many of you have seen, comedian Tanyalee has had her fair share of public transport issues lately. From being asked to move her mobility scooter to give priority to a passenger with a folding pram, to literally being left on a train when assistance failed to show up, it’s been one thing after the other. Ahead of Tanyalee’s performance at York Fringe, I had the opportunity to chat to her about the status of mobility aids, the tiresome act of arranging assistance, and accidentally beginning an accessible transport movement…
Mobility scooters seem to be a bit of a grey area within the world of mobility aids, and I was particularly keen to talk to Tanyalee, given my own recent experiences. Having recently discussed how mobility scooters and mobility aids are inherently marketed towards elderly people, I’m fairly certain that the general public assume mobility scooters are primarily for this age group. Perhaps this would’ve had a bearing on whether or not they were taken as serious mobility aids, in cases such as Tanyalee’s?
“Absolutely. I think that’s definitely part of the problem and that’s why it’s time to change some attitudes. I’m not just taking the scooter to the market like elderly people, I’m relying on it as my legs, to get me around the world… it’s my independence”.
Thinking specifically about public transport, I know I’m not alone in fearing travelling using a mobility aid, especially when it comes to trains. Even when I used a transit manual wheelchair, I frequently experienced the sinking feeling that came when you realised your assistance wasn’t going to turn up. As much as I’d appreciate the kindness of other passengers in helping to get me off the train, nobody should even be in that position. Mobility aids are designed to give disabled people freedom and independence, and yet since upgrading to a powerchair a few months ago, I still haven’t geared myself up to using public transport alone. So, how do we help to prevent this fear that’s stopping people from travelling?
“Right now, it’s still the beginning stages but I’m getting everybody to share their stories in the public eye so that when I meet with rail companies, I’m gonna be like okay, here’s this story, and this story… that way, they’ll all be documented. Scooters are obviously my thing because there’s such a prejudice and such a differentiation between scooters and wheelchairs, however I’m trying to champion it for everybody. And it’s not just trains, it’s all public transport.
I was bullied on the train by this guy. I’ve found such a bullying culture in this country. I’m hoping that instead of trying to compensate me, the train lines will instead donate to organisations such as GR8 AS U R, a Kindness Campaign I’m involved with that’s geared towards primary kids stopping bullying before it starts”.
Of course, undertaking the journey is only one small part of travelling with a disability. Again, I’m sure I’m not alone in fully resenting good old JourneyCare. For those who don’t know, this is the system used to apparently ‘make sure everyone who’d like assistance during their journey gets all the help they need’. And I’m sure it would be brilliant if, y’know, the online form worked every now and again.
That’s why I was particularly keen when Tanyalee mentioned the potential for an app for booking assistance.
“There’s got be one standard place where we can easily book assistance. In REAL time, not 24 hours in advance. I’ve been trying to use the online JourneyCare form for the last two weeks and it just will not go through. And I don’t have time to do the call: it takes forever and they CHARGE you for the call. So an app where passengers and guards could share information in real time could help so many people”.
But besides the app, Tanyalee has high hopes for the future. Out of such unpleasant experiences has come the #ScooterGirlCampaign, and what Tanyalee hopes will become a standardised place for people to share their own travel experiences.
“People have said oh it’s this one incident and this one incident, but no. It’s fifteen years in this country but only once I’ve been able to document it on video. I really do hope to create a great resource for people. I feel like it’s a lot of pressure on me to kick start this but I need everybody’s help, so we can try to get this and put it all in one place, so there’s a constant log where we can tag every train and bus line. Everybody needs to step up their game”.
So, what can we do to support the movement? As a starting point, we can follow Tanyalee’s example and begin to vocalise our public transport experiences. We can share them and help them to reach those people who can do something about them, and hopefully bring about some tangible change within accessible transport. To show your support, be sure to check out the #ScooterGirlCampaign tag on Facebook, and keep an eye on Tanyalee’s social media too. And in the meantime, I’ll be on the phone to JourneyCare trying to arrange my work travel for tomorrow… so I’ll see you some time in 2019, yeah?
What do you think of Tanyalee’s experiences? Have you experienced any public transport disasters?