I’ve been using mobility aids in one form or another for seven years. It started with needing a walking stick when the wear and tear of my Spina Bifida made one of my legs weaker. I hated it. Hated how frumpy I felt with it. Would never have it in pictures. Then I upgraded to crutches which felt even worse.
It became apparent last year that I needed a bit more. Now was the time to get a mobility scooter. If I felt frumpy with a walking stick then getting a mobility scooter was next level.
There was no joy in the decision, if anything it felt like giving in. My ableism told me I was lazy and I dreaded what other people would think.
The first day of actually using it was so hard. We did the school run, it was torrential rain, everyone staring at us. They think I’m lazy. They think I’m a bad Mum. I felt so anxious, was so apologetic, felt like I stuck out like a sore thumb. Got home and sobbed and longed to have legs that worked so I could take my kids to school the same way everyone else does.
I couldn’t just decide to not take the kids to school though and I also didn’t want to feel anxious forever so I had to work really hard on how I viewed being on the scooter. Taking ridiculous pictures on it definitely helped. It made me laugh. Felt like I was reclaiming it as my own. Then I worked on finding all the joy it bought me.
That was three months ago now and I feel no anxiety being out on it at all. I adore the ride to school now, my littlest on my lap pointing out all the things he can see. My six year old strolling next to me chatting away about ninjas and snakes. Sometimes we sing our heads off, sometimes I go the long way home just to savour the feeling of Cary snuggled into me blabbering away. Occasionally he’ll even fall asleep whilst we’re riding along, dead arm aside it’s adorable, he looks like a snug waterproof potato.
I know there’s people who need a mobility aid but put it off because of what other people will think. Well that’s nonsense. We live in a world where people with legs that work are totally ok to go buy a fancy new bike so they can get somewhere faster and there’s zero judgement in that. Abled bodied people use them hiking poles for Xtreme walking or some thing and that’s also fine. But if you’re disabled and choose to get some wheels or sticks to help then that’s seen as lazy? Seen as something to be pitied?
Mobility scooters, rollators, wheelchairs etc aren’t just reserved for older people (My father in law is 70 and could do with a walking frame but won’t get one because he just thinks they’re for old people) They shouldn’t be seen as giving in, they shouldn’t be seen as something sorrowful and there should never ever be any guilt involved with using one.
I can’t wait to live in a world where getting a mobility aid is viewed the same way as getting a new bike or a new car. Something personal, something stylish, something that helps you get around. Something that is a joy to shop for and receive, something to be excited about.
Remember when glasses were stigmatised and you could only get awful NHS ones. Now look at them, fashion designers are queuing up to have their own range. People who don’t even need glasses wear them because they think they’re cool. I can’t wait to see a the day when mobility aids are seen the same way. Something that is functional and also beautiful.
I promise you if you have anxiety around using a mobility aid in public that anxiety does ease off the more you do it. The more you see how much freedom it can bring. The more you realise that actually this can be loads of fun. I swear they haven’t paid me to say this but when I did get my scooter from the guys at Lifestyle Mobility they helped me get a lil excited about it. I mean they sourced me out a fancy basket and it’s all red and shiny and reminds me of my bike I adored back when I could ride one.
So here’s to being excited about the joy a mobility aid can bring. To zooming around on your scooter with pride. To taking photos on it in your bikini if that floats your boat. To not caring what anyone else thinks (run their toes over if they start judging you) to embrace using a mobility aid with no shame whatsoever!
Nina is a Mum, Wife, Disability Mentor and activist (and a massive nerd.) Find her on Instagram www.instagram.com/nina_tame