Actress Ruth Madeley recounted what she’s calling an act of ‘disability hate’ by a taxi driver who took her wheelchair away from her after an argument.
The British Academy of Film and Television Arts nominee told the BBC that the driver said it was “too difficult” to let her out at an accessible entrance at London’s Euston station and that it wasn’t his problem if she couldn’t use stairs.
After an argument over payment, Madeley said the driver put her wheelchair in his trunk and refused to return it to her.
Transport for London (TfL) has apologised for the “utterly appalling” incident.
Graham Robinson, TfL’s general manager for taxi and private hire, said, “We have contacted Ruth for more details so we can carry out a full and urgent investigation.”
Madeley wrote on Instagram that the driver told her it was “too difficult” to drop her off at the station’s accessible entrance because of heavy traffic, and that he “had seen me stand & so knew I could walk.”
“When I told [the driver] that I can’t manage stairs, he proceeded to tell me that it was MY problem not his,” she explained.
“As if this wasn’t traumatic enough, he demanded his fare even though the journey had been prepaid.
“When I tried explaining this on the street, he became very agitated &, in sheer frustration, HE TOOK MY WHEELCHAIR from behind me without warning & carried it away to put in the boot of his taxi, leaving me on the side of the road.”
The actress’s mother managed to grab the wheelchair, although the driver “tried his best to stop her,” Madeley told the BBC.
Taxis and designated wheelchair-accessible private hire vehicles have a legal duty to transport people who use wheelchairs in accordance with the Equality Act 2010. This includes a duty to provide mobility assistance without extra charge.
Madeley said that when she attempted to report the event to the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), she was told it was not a hate crime and that no criminal act had taken place.
She added, “I was shut down and made to feel as though I was making a fuss over nothing.
“After more fighting & asking for support, the police told me that nothing can be done. No warning to the taxi driver or the firm, no accountability, no consequences…”
A spokesperson for the MPS confirmed to the BBC that, while understanding the trauma this confrontation caused for Madeley, the police would not investigate because the incident is “not a criminal matter.”
Ironically, this act of disability hate occurred on the same day that it was announced Madeley is to star in BBC Two’s forthcoming factual drama Independence Day? How Disabled Rights Were Won.
Marking the implementation of the Disability Discrimination Act, the film is based on the true story of the people responsible for the movement of direct action that lead to notable advancements in the struggle for civil rights of people with disabilities in Britain.
Madeley said this altercation demonstrates the discrimination experienced by people with disabilities “every single day” and was “clear proof that the fight for disability rights is far from over.”