Woman pulling a walker on wheels loaded up with hot dogs and bags of chips at an outdoor event.

At a community bbq last year one of the organizers thought I was so cool for using my walker to carry a family’s worth of hot dogs and she made me pose for the event photographer.

I remember a quote by Jesse Ventura going viral (before that was a thing) when I was a teen – “Organized religion is a […] crutch.

I heard a podcaster recently say “I used humour, not as a crutch but as a tool.”

Both quotes, although addressing very different subject matter, imply that a crutch is a negative thing –

as though using a crutch is an admission of weakness,

as though it’s something to wean yourself off of as soon as you’re able,

as though the crutch causes the weakness.

Full length selfie in a mirror in a hotel lobby. A woman stands with a cane.

in 1999 when the Ventura quote was popular I didn’t know enough to recognize the ableism behind the metaphor. Now, 20 yeas later I see it plain as day when someone specifies “not at a crutch but as a tool.”

What is a crutch if not a tool?

It’s definitely not a failure, although it felt like it when I finally gave in and admitted that I needed mobility aids.

My internalised ableism told me that I was too young, too independent, too strong to need those.

I would only use a cane around the house. I would avoid going out if I couldn’t walk independently. I would limp and stagger rather than lean on a stick.

A candid photo from behind of a woman walking with a cane. There are children walking in front of her. Outside in the sunshine.

It didn’t take too long to realize the foolishness of that position and now I’m never without my cane.

But again I had to overcome the ableist voices in my head (and sometimes in the world around me) when I graduated to using a walker.

I would only use it on my worst days, as an absolute last resort.

But after feeling the effects of a day spent with my walker – legs supported, back not screaming in pain, arms not exhausted from carrying my bags, the satisfaction of getting things done and still having energy when I got home – I quickly learned to love it.

Now I take it whenever it’s more convenient than not. It just depends on the day and what I’m doing.

I am less disabled when I have the right mobility aids with me.

A full length photo of a woman from behind as she pushes a walker down a large hallway. Photo was taken in the main atrium of the national Art Gallery of Canada.

There’s no way I could enjoy places like the National Gallery without my walker. (Also IKEA, the mall, any museum and Home Depot.)

I don’t have many photos with my cane or walker because I’m usually taking photos at a closer range. On the rare occasion when someone snaps a picture of me from a distance my cane or walker usually make it into the shot.

And I am always glad because in those photos I look like me.


2 thoughts on “Tools

  1. Joyce Pedde says:

    I love that you embrace your mobility aids.💓 i am proud of you! You are a strong, beautiful, positive woman!!. I am also thankful you have mobility devices and that we are privileged to live in a country that enables you to use them. I know accessability is not perfect by any means but beyond so many places in the world!


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