I Experience Ableism When I Use My Mobility Aids
I’ve been using my mobility aids (mostly my walker) more and more the past few months. Over the course of the pandemic, my chronic fatigue has gotten worse, so I now use a walker most days if I need to leave the house.
What I feared the most when I decided to start using my walker was how other people would react. Most people don’t care, but lately, I’ve gotten some ableist comments that I want to address.
What I feared came true
The first few times I used my walker in public, I made sure that my mom was with me. I was scared to go alone. Scared of the stares, possible comments, and the judgments of the people around me.
Whenever I go somewhere with someone, I never get comments. I get some stares (even some up and down), but no one ever says a word to me. I started to get comfortable enough that I didn’t think twice about taking my walker in public. Then I started taking it in public on my own.
That’s when my fears came true. I left the house 3 times this week with my walker, and 2 of those times were on my own. The 2 times I was alone were the times I got comments made to me about my walker.
I was at the mall on my own waiting for my coffee when a man approached me. He asked me if the walker was mine (duh, I’m the one using it?). I said yes, and he responded by saying “Oh wow, I’m so sorry”.
First things first, you don’t need to approach someone using a mobility aid and ask if it’s theirs just because they’re young. You wouldn’t ask an elderly person using a mobility aid that, so why ask me? Second, don’t say you’re sorry. I don’t need your pity. My mobility aid provides me with accessibility. Without it, I wouldn’t be able to leave the house to even hear your comments.
He continued to ask me questions, like how I got arthritis (genetics) and so on. Finally, he said, “Oh, I thought that was your grandma’s and you were holding it for her.” And that’s when I nervously laughed and walked away.
I felt gross, I felt insulted, and I didn’t need this random man’s commentary on MY disability. Please don’t do this. What happened next, though, was worse.
I felt so uncomfortable
Two days later, I went on the bus to my rheumatologist’s appointment. I took my walker again, and I was alone again. I was feeling extra tired that day and just ready to get this appointment over with.
The bus pulled up and I got on. The bus driver looked at me and said “No more running around, eh?” I was in shock. Again, I nervously laughed, because I didn’t know what to do, and sat down.
Later in the ride, he asked if I was getting off at the next stop, and I said yes. That’s when he felt so inclined to say “No more jumping on the bed!” I was appalled, and I still am. I don’t understand where people get these ideas to say to others. I’m DISABLED. I know I can’t do these things, but just because I’m young and disabled does not mean it’s okay to joke about with me. Especially if I don’t know you. I reported him, don’t worry.
It might not get easier
I know I have to learn to not let these comments bother me. I have to get used to using my walker in public and I want to be able to stand up for myself in these situations. It’s important.
It’s just hard when I’m already not 100% comfortable with my disability and using my mobility aids in public. I just hope the more people see young people with mobility aids, the less they make stupid, ableist comments because it needs to stop.
How often do you experience flare ups?