Using Mobility Aids in Public
Last updated: May 2021
I’ve been using mobility aids for about 4 years now. The thing is, it wasn’t until more recently that I started to use them in public as needed.
I was always scared
I think something a lot of people with invisible disabilities worry about is using a mobility aid in public. If we outwardly look “normal”, what will people think? Will they stare and whisper? Will they make a comment when I use the wheelchair parking spot, but get out without a mobility aid?
These are some of the questions that went through my head when I thought about using one of my aids in public. I use a cane and a walker when I need to. But most of the time that’s just around the house, helping me get up and down the stairs, or from bed to the bathroom.
Whenever I actually left the house, I would just fake whatever pain or discomfort I was having. I would suck it up and pay the consequences later. I didn’t care whether that would cause me more pain or damage in the long run, I was too embarrassed to use my mobility aids at 22 years old.
What happened when I used my mobility aid in public
Recently, I took my cane and walker out in public. I used my cane when I took a trip to Walmart before Christmas, and before the second wave of COVID really hit us hard. I was worried, but that day I was in pain and quite fatigued, aka a normal Saturday for me.
I had gotten a new cane, a sparkly pink cane, and was nervous that it would bring more attention to me and the cane itself. What I discovered though, was that no one actually cares. No one looked at me, no one stared and whispered, I was just another person at Walmart during the Saturday rush.
When I left the store that day, I felt about 10 times more confident than I did walking in. I also felt silly, that I spent all those years worrying about how others would react and putting myself in more pain just to avoid the judgment of others.
When I took my walker outside
A few weeks ago, I took my new walker outside in public. I spray-painted it pink and added glitter and some stickers to it. I can’t rave enough about the importance of customizing and personalizing your mobility aids to make you more comfortable.
Anyways, I took it down the street for a walk one afternoon with my dad. I felt comfortable doing this because it was a colder day, and not many people were outside. A walker is definitely more noticeable than a cane, so it’s going to take a bit of warming up.
We ended up talking to a woman who lives down the street from us, and after 5 minutes she asked if I was recovering from something. I told her I actually have arthritis, and she took it well and the conversation moved on.
I was actually pretty comfortable with answering her questions. She didn’t say it in a rude way, she was genuinely curious, as I’m sure most people would be when they see a younger person using a mobility aid.
I wasn’t offended, I don’t think I would ever be offended unless someone made a rude comment towards me.
After both of these experiences using my mobility aid outside of the house, I feel even more confident to do it in the future. People generally don’t care when they see it, but there are a few that are curious and will ask questions, and that’s okay too!
Have you ever had to take a leave of absence from work due to your symptoms?
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