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What Shouldn't Happen When I'm Shopping for a Walking Cane Online

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Dear Amazon,

I am 29 years old and I am disabled. When I say disabled, let me try to explain what that looks like for me personally.  Can you imagine being in your 20s, someone who used to be a dancer, and slowly over five years becoming sicker and sicker and in more and more pain every day? And then getting married and before you even reach your first anniversary, becoming so sick you can barely stand and walk on your own, and even when you can you’re in extreme pain. Imagine being in your 20s and needing a wheelchair for half your days and during the other half, you give all your strength to fight to stand and walk on your own, even if it’s very brief.

The struggle of being in 24/7 pain for 3.5 years now has been more horrible than I can put into words. But to also go from being a strong, independent person to someone who needs a prescription wheelchair and mobility aids before I even reach my 30th birthday has been heartbreaking. So when I made the decision that I needed to order a walking cane as well, it was very difficult. Imagine the gut-wrenching feeling in my stomach when I finally gather the courage to be honest about needing this help, click that order button to buy my cane, and I immediately see this.

Image of "old people" costumes on Amazon.

There are nine products suggested based on the purchase I just made, and eight out of those nine are for dressing up in an “old person” costume. I know this is because ableism is a real thing in this world, and most people would not imagine many people in their 20s could be chronically ill enough to need these mobility aids.

There are many types of disabilities and chronic illnesses. Some are born with their disabilities more obvious and apparent, some happen from accidents or specific events, and some of us have always had some symptoms and they build and develop until we look back and realize our lives have changed to something we never could have imagined. The experience of living with disabilities is unique to each person, but one thing that is the same for each of us is the struggle to fight for equality in a world where most people don’t think twice about whether the world is accessible to all.

We have to fight to be seen every single day. We have to fight for people to even make room for someone traveling in a wheelchair. We have to fight to be taken seriously, to just be seen, to be considered. So please, Amazon, don’t make us feel “broken” or “less than” by your website’s response to us giving you our business. I know your website is probably automated to populate those options after checkout, but you need to take responsibility for your algorithms and make sure your customers don’t get ads that make our conditions into a joke. Trust me, most of us already feel badly enough; we don’t need any more of that.


A 29-year-old who hates feeling like she’s 109 years old

P.S. For anyone reading this who is not Amazon and relates to what I’m sharing, I want you to know that you are not alone. The guilt lots of people with disabilities deal with is immense. I’ve heard this same feeling expressed over and over again: “Even though I need a mobility aid to function, I feel so guilty and ashamed that I can’t just suck it up and move without help.” And I get that feeling constantly. But why should anyone feel guilty for using the tools they need to get around? Yet so many of us still have to fight these feelings. If you live with chronic pain and disability, give yourself a break. Use whatever you need to make your life even the slightest bit easier. You are not only allowed, but you deserve the help and relief.

Getty image by Hopfphotography.

Originally published: April 19, 2020
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