Tag Archives: walking stick

A World Drained of Colour

beigePart of my job recently has been to source disability aids for a bathroom refurbishment. I rose to the challenge and visited a local showroom. Stepping in from the high street, I entered a grim emporium of bandage-beige and clinical white, an environment utterly devoid of style and colour.

Sun-faded posters depicted happy pensioners looking up at their carers, overjoyed to be using a walk-in bath or grab-rail. There were pictures of sunsets and autumn leaves, the subliminal message all too clear.

This is the medical model of disability in all its soul-sapping starkness. I asked the bored assistant for a fold-up bath chair. She waved a hand vaguely in a direction towards the back of the jumbled shop. One sad little model. White, wall attachments, two legs and a seat. The price for this utilitarian piece of plastic? ¬£85. Someone’s having a laugh.

Hesitantly, I interrupted the assistant from her Hello! magazine again to ask what other colours they came in. The blank look on her face was my answer. Back at home, I searched the internet for modern, fun aids. You’ve got to look long and hard. I found cool crutches, funky wheelchairs and loads of brilliant walking sticks but struggled to find semi-decent home adaptations.

The heartening message is, visible aids that are seen in public have been updated – crutches, sticks. glasses, wheelchairs (but at a price). At home, however, where most of us probably spend the majority of our time, the manufacturers have helpfully recreated that hospital vibe, as if you need reminding that yes, you are disabled.

Disability aid design is a dusty, neglected area. I’m guessing there’s no prizes for designing a toilet chair that could actually be fun as well as functional. Perhaps in the shape of a throne, or a racing car? Or stair-lifts that might fitted neatly into a home, rather than looking and sounding like a clunky, depressing piece of functional machinery.

I used to know a young man with a severe disability. He hated having to use a urine bottle at night and ¬†told me he wanted one that wasn’t so depressing looking – something brightly coloured, or designed to look like a bottle of beer. Something, anything rather than what he had. Not too much to ask?

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Walking Stick Chic

Gandalf has one, Charlie Chaplin was famous for his and Brad Pitt was recently spotted with one. So why am I so reluctant to use a walking stick when I need to?

This came up for discussion last week in the Fatigue Management course, when I wailed about how scary it was to walk to the loo in a busy pub or restaurant (I have been known to trip and fall spectacularly, in full cartoon-mode). I can sit there for hours, carefully plotting the best route, working out how slippy the floor is and counting how many people I could quite possibly fall over in front of. If I don’t know where the loos are, I will send a friend first and extract every last bit of information from them. ‘How far did you say? Big plant to watch out for? Carpet or wooden flooring?’. And so on.

The suggestion from the group was that I should carry one of those folding ones in my bag and just use it for extra balance when I need to. It’s a huge psychological step though, isn’t it? It’s almost the same as the first time you go outside with a pram – you think everyone is looking at you and it takes a while to get used to it.

And how on earth do you actually walk with it? I think I may need a few trial runs. I will go out when it is dark, in dark clothing to a very dark place and give it a go. Do you put the stick down first, then walk or walk then put the stick down? What’s the rhythm? What if I trip over the stick?

I had a chat with a friend a while back about this conundrum. She put her hand on my arm and said, ‘Daaaarling (she’s a bit posh), never fear! Why do you think all the best ballet teachers have one? It gives them authority, it is chic and makes a statement’. Fair point. So the last time I was in town, I scanned the crowds, picking out every single person with a stick. I failed to find a single chic person. The majority were eligible for free bus passes. Where are all the young people with sticks? Where do they hide?

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