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How Using a Mobility Aid Changed My Perspective

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I recently received a lovely message from a lady who had come across an old post I had written about using a walking stick. It inspired me to write an up-to-date post on how I feel about using a walking aid. I never quite realized the impact my post would have; at the time I was just writing down how I felt about making my invisible illness somewhat visible to others.

I remember being scared of judgment from complete strangers, and fearing the possibility that a walking stick could become an integral part of my everyday life. I didn’t label myself as disabled as I never really thought I was, but I gradually came to terms with the fact that disabilities cover such a vast spectrum of different things, and that needing a wheelchair is not the only determining factor when being classed as disabled.

I have been faced with judgment when traveling with my walking stick due to the way I look. I am young, which to many automatically equals healthy and able-bodied. People have assumed I am sitting in the disabled seating because I am pregnant. Others have just looked at me inquisitively, forgetting that it is rude to stare at others, disabled or not. I also started using the “please offer me a seat” badge Transport for London offered, but sadly I am often ignored and have had no choice but to stand. I do not like to draw attention and am not comfortable asking someone to give up their seat. There have been a handful of generous people who have thankfully not thought twice about offering me a seat.

Whether you are able to walk unaided, use a walking stick as extra or full support, use a wheelchair part-time or always require a wheelchair, you should not be faced with judgment. You are making a decision that is best for you. It doesn’t make you any less of a person or change who you are. Your decision to use a walking/mobility aid or not does define whether you are disabled or not. It is hard enough for people to accept that they need the extra help, knowing there is little they can do to change their medical circumstances. I have started to accept this myself as fighting against my circumstances is a losing battle.

Sadly, people often tend to focus on the negative connotations of being disabled. A person probably doesn’t want to be chronically ill, but the strength and determination it can teach is a positive outcome from something negative. Many of us fear change, but when your health is compromised, change is non-negotiable. You are forced to adapt to the situation and do whatever is best for you, whether it be to accept extra help, household adaptations or walking aids.

No one else is going through the exact same journey as you. You may have a disability, but all that means is that you will take a different path to others. I believe we should strive to focus on what we can do, rather than weighing ourselves down with what we can’t. We are more than our disability, and don’t let anyone make you believe otherwise.

Originally published: April 15, 2019
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