New Ways of Being Stared At: Adjusting to Life with a Mobility Aid

Caitlin Cooper describes her experience as a young woman using a mobility aid.

Growing up as a young woman who is outwardly very awkward and unassertive, I’m no stranger to being stared at as I walk down the street. The first few times it happened, my fourteen year-old self was outraged, but as a twenty year-old, I’m unmoved. Taking to the streets with a walking aid for the first time, I was transported back to adolescence. I knew I’d get a few odd looks, disabled friends had warned me of that, but I didn’t expect it to be so blatant.

It was far from an easy decision to start using a mobility aid. I had worries ranging from fears that I would become reliant on something other than my body to help me move, to concerns that the one I chose wouldn’t always match my outfits. However, it didn’t take long for these feelings to be put to rest after I started using the stick. Unboxing it felt like I was in a half-dreaming state. Not only was it beautiful, it also embodied my hope for a less painful life. Never had I had so much faith in a piece of plastic.

Walking home from a class on my first day with it, unpracticed and slightly embarrassed, my lack of coordination and general awkwardness must have endeared me to the woman walking next to me. She turned to me and said that she loved how it sparkled in the sunlight. That interaction, as well as every approving nod from well-dressed passersby, and the enthusiasm I’ve had from my friends makes the more disheartening new ways of being stared at a little more manageable.

I’ve had more than a few odd looks. People looking only at the cane in my hands, or worse, flitting their eyes between my face and the stick, clearly pondering how the two could possibly relate. At times, I feel like a walking omen. If disability can affect a young, otherwise apparently healthy person, it can affect anyone. My body is now a reminder to people of this fact. 

Still, not every look is judgemental and not every comment is impolite. Even if they were, I love my walking stick so much that I’d soon recover. It’s completely changed my life. Gone are the days when I’d collapse into my bed after a twenty minute walk, and I’m no longer confined to my bedroom during flare-ups. Being young isn’t an excuse not to use a mobility aid if you think it would help you. In fact, it’s all the more reason to buy one and make the most of the best years of your life. It might feel strange at first, but there’s no shame in forging a more comfortable life for yourself.