No Shame in a Mobility Aid
There is no shame in using a mobility aid, so why are we made to feel like there is?
I used crutches on and off throughout my teenage years and I hated it. Grey, medical-looking things seemed to be the only option in the 90s. Plus, they marked me as being different, and they definitely weren’t cool—which is what every teenage girl wants to be, right?
My Spina Bifida settled down more in my twenties and I didn’t need a mobility aid again until I hit my thirties. One of my legs began to give way so I bought a walking stick. I also hated this. It was purchased from a garden center and clearly aimed at the retired.
Isn’t that the demographic that most mobility aids (bar manual wheelchairs) are aimed at? Have you been in a mobility shop? The most soulless of spaces, certainly not a place to get excited about what you’re buying. More a sad, beige feeling of reaching the end of the line. I mean, I know people in their 70s who need a mobility aid but won’t get one because they think they’re just for older people.
I felt a lot of shame around needing a mobility aid. I’d always hide my walking stick in pictures because I decided it somehow made me less attractive. Like somehow being a younger person and needing one meant I was a failure. When my mobility decreased even more, I agonized over the decision to get a wheelchair. It felt like somehow I wasn’t trying hard enough to walk. Like even though walking caused me pain and made me fall over all the time, surely that was better than the horror of a wheelchair.
Must keep trying to walk as unassisted as possible. Painful walking that causes anxiety is surely better than not walking at all?
What a message we all live with. Pushing ourselves constantly, despite pain and anxiety. Giving up our freedom to move through the world comfortably just because a mobility aid comes with so much stigma.
My dear old dad, on hearing that I was getting a wheelchair, said to me, “I hope you won’t give up walking completely.” To which I suggested to him that maybe he ought to take his glasses off a few times a day and really try hard to see without them.
Ridiculous, right? How walking sticks, rollators, wheelchairs, and hearing aids are a source of shame, yet they’re just a tool. And everybody uses tools to make their lives more comfortable. Bicycles, cars, knives and forks, reading glasses, robot vacuum cleaners (I really want one of them), ride-on lawn mowers, electric scooters... The list goes on and on.
No cyclist feels shame about buying a bike. They don't think, “Well, maybe I should just walk everywhere. I mustn’t give in.” So why do Disabled people feel such shame around a mobility aid?
I think representation plays a huge part. Let’s go back to the beige mobility shop of doom. Where the only models advertising the products all look like grandparents with candy-floss hair. How often do you see anyone under the age of 70 advertising a mobility scooter or a rollator? Not very often at all.
It was only when I stumbled upon the Disability community online that my feelings towards mobility aids changed. Suddenly, I saw all of these diverse people using mobility aids—and totally rocking them. It blew my mind. These people still looked cool and attractive with their mobility aids, so I guess that means I do as well.
It was so freeing. I felt seen in a way that I’d never felt before. This shame... It was nonsense. If there’s no shame in wearing glasses, then why should there be shame in using any other aid?
Be gone shame, you are not welcome here!
My mobility aids throughout the years have been tools for my sweet, sweet freedom. They enable me to leave the house. They enable me to enjoy the world around me without worrying that I’m gonna fall and break something. They don’t make me unattractive or a failure. They are a tool. As simple as that and no one should ever feel shame about using one.
If you’re thinking of getting a mobility aid, then get the mobility aid. Open the door up to your sweet freedom. You’re still a saucy little minx, only now you’re a saucy little minx that can exist in the world a bit more comfortably and isn’t that just brill?
I can’t moan about frumpy mobility aids without also featuring a few companies who are getting it right.
Featured mobility aids
Neo-Walk sells light-up walking sticks. Light-up walking sticks! I so wish I’d known about these back when I was using one. Their whole range from glitter to pretty, delicate, translucent sticks, are just gorgeous.
Cool Crutches are exactly that, from leopard print to polka dot, but what I really love is that you can design your own. Imagine that! I could literally have crutches with my face all over them. What’s not to love!
I think this is a genius idea! A rollator that turns into a wheelchair for when you get tired. I also love the pretty colors they come in. Definitely not your typical medical-grey mobility aid.
I’m obsessed with how these rollators from byACRE look. They remind me of the retro bicycles from my childhood dreams. Such beautiful style and design. Definitely not a frumpy mobility aid and one you’d be proud to show off in pictures.
I adore Izzy Wheels! I’ve always felt a little limited in that I’m always in the same wheelchair. Being able to add a pair of these to your wheels could totally change up the look of your chair. The designs are so dreamy, too.