Chronic Illness PSA - Mobility Edition
Something able bodied people often struggle to understand/dont know is that chronic illness varies - it varies from person to person, but it also varies from day to day, hour to hour, even minute to minute.
I can be standing unassisted or moving around ok one minute and be on the floor or needing immediate assistance to remain standing or be completely unable to move without assistance the next. This is not an exaggeration. These are things that happen to me - that happen to people with chronic illnesses.
People have difficulty understanding that - that I can walk around the shops unassisted one day, and need a cane just to get out of bed later that same day.
Changing mobility devices day to day does not neccessarily mean I have gotten sicker if I am using a wheelchair when yesterday I used a cane, and if I am moving unassisted when yesterday I was bedbound, it does not mean I am cured. It doesnt mean I was faking or exaggerating. It means I am experiencing a different combination of symptoms.
Mobility Devices examples
Mobility devices vary - the obvious ones that most people would think of and recognise are:
Then there are some less obvious devices that people might not immediately think of but do actually assist in mobility, such as:
- Strapping Tape
- Service Dogs
- Custom Orthotics
And then there are the really not obvious ones - things we use to assist with mobility though that may not be their intended purpose
- Shopping Carts (Leaning on them)
- Friends/ Carers
- Walls (Shoutout to Walls)
Social Response to Mobility Devices
All of these mobility devices are valid. What combination of these we use (if any) can change at any time. That does not make us fakers, or lazy, or exaggerating, and when we dont need to use them, IT DOES NOT MEAN WE ARE CURED.
Starting to use mobility devices needs to be normalised, especially for young people. I hear so many say they would have started using (insert device that has really helped them) so much sooner if I hadnt been worried about the stigma/not being ‘sick enough’/being afraid of how they will look etc.
Dont be afraid to accessorise your mobility device. Matching your cane to your outfit does not make your mobility needs or device any less valid. Your cane works just as well whether it is bright pink or dark brown. There is this weird idea that if your mobility device looks cool to match your aesthetic, you must be faking, or not really need it. Your life does not end or stop because you are using a mobility device - why should your style/aesthetic die?.
Feelings about mobility devices
It is important for people to be comfortable with their mobility devices. That means
- Physical comfort - having a device that fits and is right and safe for you
- Mental comfort - Feeling good about using your device, feeling comfortable with it. This can be hard - people stare, they make comments, especially if you are a young person.
When I first started using a cane, I felt shame, I was scared to use it, especially around family - (Still am). I find myself overly cautious of each step, trying to make sure my cane doesnt make a noise - and that is shame over being visibly disabled. Around new doctors I do this too, as if I need to be quieter about being disabled.
This is because of ableism. Because we are taught that to be disabled is to be worth less and we should be ashamed of it.
Perks of mobility devices
- Always have somewhere to sit
- When your friends push you really fast and you feel like you are in a trashy teen movie.
- You can do fun things with your friends that you probably couldnt do without the chair
- Can wear whatever shoes you want.
- Can be used to whack ableist arseholes (dont really plz, no violence)
- If you have a service dog, they are good to block people from patting your dog
- Collect them all - co-ordinate with your outfit
- Visible symbol of your disability means a much needed seat on the bus and not feeling like people are judging you wondering why a seemingly healthy young person needs to use the lift (elevator).
- Nunchucks (collapsible canes)
- Dressing up, getting your fanciest cane, and feeling dapper af.
- Best of both worlds - sitting AND standing.
- Somewhere to put your food tray
- Adding signs or fairy lights for events
- Pimping out your device
- Having fun shopping for mobility devices that match your needs AND aesthetic
- Being able to do things that you couldnt without the devices
- Making friends with old ladies (chronically ill people probably know what im talking about)
Now this is important
YOU DO NOT NEED TO BE ASHAMED OF BEING DISABLED.
YOU DO NOT NEED TO BE ASHAMED OF USING A MOBILITY DEVICE
In fact, you should be damn proud, because going around in society with a visible representation of your chronic illness is damn hard (because people are dicks sometimes) - and to overcome that and do what is best for you is incredible.
So pimp your ride, put glitter on your cane.
I promise, you look awesome.
Mobility needs vary constantly - so what device (if any) a person uses can change too. That doesnt make their need less valid, it does mean they are suddenly cured, and using a mobilty device is not something to be ashamed of. And yes it is totally ok to bedazzle your mobility device.