May 23, 2022
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Steff Di Pardo
My cane and rollator walker have changed my life for the better by helping me experience life more fully.
Five years ago when I was first having symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis (AS), I could have never guessed how much it would eventually change my life.
Now here I am at 26 years old, working as a chronic illness and disability advocate and author. It’s crazy how much life can change in just a few short years.
One aspect of my life that has changed is that I’ve come to embrace mobility aids.
Back in 2017, one of my friends convinced me to buy a cane to help me get around on my bad days.
At first, I was wary of the idea. My wariness came from knowing that there is so much stigma around young people and mobility aids. I didn’t want to be viewed negatively by strangers when I left the house.
My friend finally convinced me that I should try using a cane, even if I only used it around the house. We went to downtown Toronto for a day and found one at an antique shop that I really liked.
I find that choosing a mobility aid that you actually like — whether it’s your favorite color or features a cute design — is extremely important. Having an aid that you like may make you more inclined to use it. It may also help you feel less worried about facing judgment when you go out in public.
Just over a year ago, I made the decision to get a rollator walker.
In November 2020, my chronic fatigue worsened and I had trouble even walking up the stairs. I would lie in bed unable to move because of how fatigued I was. I had never experienced anything like it.
I realized I needed more help than I had.
I decided to look at rollator walkers online. I wanted something I could hold onto and push as I walk from my bed to the bathroom.
I found one online that was relatively cheap. I decided it was worth seeing if it helped me and I decided to purchase it.
Let me tell you, my rollator walker has changed my life drastically.
When it arrived, it was all black. If you know me, you know my life is pink everything, so I had to make it pink. I bought spray paint and got to work.
Using mobility aids in public can feel scary. For me, not knowing how others would react was particularly intimidating.
The first time I left the house with my walker, I brought my mom with me. I was too scared to go alone and that’s OK!
Having someone with you who provides comfort and familiarity can make it less daunting to use a mobility aid in public for the first time.
I was surprised to find that not many people actually looked at me any differently.
I was free to do my own thing and shop, uninterrupted by strangers. Pretty much every fear I had disappeared when I actually got to the store.
Sure, I received some looks, but when I was using my pink walker I felt powerful.
After a few mall trips with my mom, I felt confident enough to go out by myself. I started going to doctor’s appointments and taking the bus to the mall alone.
On a few occasions, strangers stopped to ask me why I needed a walker at such a young age. Depending on my mood at the time, I either stopped to speak to them or just gave them short answers so they went away.
As a young person with a walker, this is just bound to happen every so often. People are curious, and some are bold enough to actually approach me.
What helps me is reminding myself that I don’t owe these strangers anything! They aren’t entitled to my medical history or my life story. I can tell them as much or as little as I want. Knowing this has helped me to feel powerful as well.
My cane and rollator walker have impacted my life significantly. They’ve changed it for the better.
With them, I’m able to do more things outside the house and experience life more fully.
Some people worry that using a mobility aid means you’re “giving up.” It’s actually the complete opposite. Mobility aids have provided freedom when I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to leave the house.
When I mentioned earlier that finding an aid that you like or customizing it can make a huge difference, I meant it.
Now, I actually want to use my walker in public! Making my walker my own had helped me take control of the situation.
I no longer feel disabled and ashamed — I’m disabled and proud.