Having multiple Mobility Aids
White Cane Vs Yellow Stick
Having multiple mobility aids can be tricky, especially when both are needed. Yet it can be even harder when you can only use one at once. I've used a walking stick for about 4 years and it is safe to say that I've relied on it fairly heavily. Aside from giving it a name (Peppa and Albert) it has allowed me to walk further with less falls- not to mention the fact it was purple and then yellow! Then the long cane made an appearance last October. With my eyesight deteriorating and being registered as partially sighted in March 2017 the long cane has now been on the scene for about 8 months, it too has been an invaluable mobility aid when given the chance.
But how can someone use a stick one day and then a cane the next? Also, how do you decide which one to use?
Granted, I know it is theoretically possible to use both at once, two hands and two aids, but try telling my left hand that! I'm pretty sure if I tried my stick would probably be dropped, or worse, wouldn't be put down flat- resulting with me flat on the floor. On the other hand, if my left hand was responsible for my cane it could easily get thrown at someone. Either way, it is pointless to attempt and potentially dangerous for everyone involved.
I know from personal experience that people can be confused if swapping mobility aids is a regular occurrence. Yet having multiple disabilities is confusing- especially for the person it affects. I make the decision of stick or cane every morning, if this fails then both of them come with me. However, despite this sounding far too technical then it actually is, there is a criteria to follow. Pain levels are probably the most important thing to consider for myself. I know it is easier to manage pain if I use my stick as I am able to lean on it for support- this isn't possible to do with my cane. Despite pain levels dictating which one I use, I have found over the 6 months that they both have pros and cons.
The yellow walking stick
So my pain levels are pretty high and it is the stick’s chance to shine, but what else does it do? Let's start with the obvious, it is bright yellow and the chances of it matching my outfit are pretty high. I've been asked if the colour yellow means anything- the answer is no, it is purely my preference. My last stick was purple which was also a preference of mine. The yellow however has been very useful. A young person with a walking stick is probably going to stand out, even more so if it is bright yellow. I decided to use this to my advantage and created my entire campaign for disabilities officer around the fact that they should vote for the yellow stick- I got the role so I presume it worked!
My stick means that I am more balanced and the chances of me face-planting the floor are heavily reduced. I believe this has helped me to walk further and to do so safely. If I am using my stick then people are often more likely to offer me a seat on public transport which is very helpful as it can be hard for me to stand up for long periods of time. However, due to me being young I think using a walking stick has caused more people to stare in an attempt to figure out what is wrong. Over the years I have become accustom to this and to be honest, I kind of expect it to happen.
My stick can be easier to hold for long periods of time. You might not think it, but after a while of using a cane it can be a little heavy and my hand can give up. I think this is primarily because of my Cerebral Palsy and the fact I get tired far too easily. However, the way I often manage things when using my stick has evolved over the years. To begin with its sole purpose was to keep me balanced (that is what it is meant for after all!), however I still do use my stick to know where kerbs are. To be honest I didn't realised I was doing it to begin with and it is only now I have my cane that I realise I had been compensating for my vision for a while. My stick also has loads of scuffs where I would have hit kerbs or steps with, you could say it is multi- purpose! Despite compensating in such a way it doesn't give me much notice about obstacles which is where the advantage of a cane comes in.
The white long cane
On the other hand, a long cane also has helped me a great deal. I personally would rather use my cane (never thought I would say that one!) if I am balanced enough or if I am with someone else. My cane allows me to know where obstacles are and takes away the guess work of kerbs, steps, crack in the pavement and so much more. I think I prefer my cane because it allows my brain to not be on constant overdrive. It many not seem like much to worry about but it can be so tiring when you are constantly trying to assess where certain things are.
A difference between my stick and cane that I have noticed is that people are more likely to move out of the way if I have my cane. This is very helpful as it reduces the chance of people bumping into me, but can also be very handy when you are in a very busy train station- parting crowds is a skill! However, I have noticed that when I have my cane I can be more weary about certain things. If I am out in public and use my phone I am worried about getting negative comments because of numerous assumptions that I am completely blind. This assumption has been reinforced many times while I have been in shops, cafes, train stations and many more places. I don't expect people to know my level of vision- some days even I can't figure it out! Yet the cane is an indicator of visual impairment and not total blindness.
Despite this, when using a cane it does save myself a lot of explaining when out and about. If I can't see something and therefore need to ask for clarification it is often not questioned if I have my cane, but people are very confused if I ask the same questions and have my stick. Going along the same lines of saving myself from explaining- walking when it is dark. When it gets dark I can see very little. To be honest, I hate walking anywhere when it is dark as it is even harder to navigate. Although, it does test my cane skills and makes me realise just how helpful it can be. As a result I would definitely choose my cane in this situation
But how can someone use a stick one day and then a cane the next?
They both do very different things, but both help in a multitude of situations. Even I don't know which one I am going to use tomorrow, we will just have to wait and see!
~ Chloe x