Tuesday 2 November 2021

It's okay to use a mobility aid

Recently I've come to realise that some young people/young adults with chronic illnesses and disabilities feel afraid in using mobility aids. I watch a fair bit of YouTube and one content creator made a mini series looking for either a mobility scooter or electric wheelchair and in the videos she was afraid of the aesthetic and clinical look of these mobility aids. Then another YouTube content creator has shared her story about her anxieties initially around starting to use a walking stick and then a wheelchair and then in the comments of her videos others shared their anxieties around using mobility aids also.

I think there's a long standing stigma around disability for young chronically ill and disabled people as aids especially I've found are often associated with the elderly. All around us in society and on the media we see older people using walking sticks for example. I've also found that when going through catalogs and looking on websites that sell aids nearly all the time the models used are older people. It even makes me second guess if I need a particular product when their targeting the user of such as thing at someone much much older than myself. This creates a lot stigma around mobilities aids and other aid products that these products are just there to be used by the elderly.

When you have an acquired chronic illnesses your life slowly turns upside down and what it once was pre-illness is no longer there and it's a huge adjustment; I know this from my own personal experience.

For some people their illness can affect their mobility; they may struggle with the functioning of their legs or walking may exacerbate symptoms such as pain and fatigue. This is where mobility aids - walking sticks, crutches, collators, wheelchairs etc can be a massive help and in the name mobility aid. But there's a lot of stigma around mobility aids and some young people feel put off from using mobility for fear of being questioned or judged for example (this has come from what I have seen and read on YouTube in videos and in the comments section).

Close up photo of a pair of crutches part of the upper black plastic component of the crutches is visible and then the main stick component is shown and the design on this is a colourful floral print
The floral design on my crutches
I've been using mobility aids for years now. Initially I had a fold-up walk-in stick for when needed to then using my walking stick all the time. I then progressed to using crutches and now I use a combination of either my crutches or my wheelchair. I hated my grey NHS crutches - they where so clinical, uncomfortable and they just didn't feel right and I didn't feel like myself and I felt like they made my disability more obvious and people often assumed or asked me things like had I broken my legs or what was wrong with my legs. 

When I got my purple spotty crutches I felt more me and they where more of a permanent fixture in my life and to my mobility rather than a 6 week use of NHS crutches for a broken legs or ankle sprain. (My walking stick before these crutches where a floral print.) I feel that having a mobility aids with a design on them helps me in a way as they express who I am and my style as opposed to glaringly obvious NHS grey crutches identifying my use of them. Especially as my use of crutches is that is permanent - anyway that's just how I feel about my crutches (and the accessories I use on my wheelchair).

Another point I feel that needs putting in this post is the portrayal of disability in the media. Occasionally you see the odd main character in a wheelchair but to my knowledge no one young in the 20's and 30's age range. When it comes to crutches and walking sticks you see even less and the only main character that I can think of is Hugh Laurie who plays Gregory House in House M.D. (there's maybe more out there).