When thinking about getting a mobility aid, most people would naturally ask themselves “Do I need a mobility aid?”. However, this is not always a useful question to ask yourself. This is because the definition of “need” can mean a number of different things. So needing something could mean “I can’t survive without it”, “I can’t do a certain task without it”, “I can’t be independent without it” or a number of other meanings.
This question could have a number of different answers depending on how you define “need”. Hence why it is sometimes an unhelpful question to consider.
People often think you have to fit certain criteria to be ‘allowed’ to use a mobility aid. For example, many people believe the misconception that ‘wheelchair users must have complete paralysis in their legs’. In actual fact, many wheelchair users can move their legs, and many can walk. Usually, ambulatory wheelchair users (wheelchair users who can walk) may only be able walk short distances, or would experience adverse symptoms when walking. This misconception is incredibly harmful, as many wheelchair users experience harassment if they are seen to walk in public or even if they just move their legs.
Many people will try to tell you their opinions on whether to get a mobility aid. People will also have their own ideas about ‘how disabled’ you have to be to use certain mobility aids. It is important to remember that their opinions do not matter when deciding. If you think it will help you, you can get it regardless of if others think you shouldn’t.
Mobility aid use is often seen as a weakness, undesirable, and to be avoided at all costs. when in actual fact, they are tools of freedom, of independence. Before I had my aids I would struggle to leave my flat at all, and would barely go out for anything other than to go to the supermarket or pharmacy. But now with my wheelchair, I can sometimes go out for a long day in a city just for fun, and actually live my life, do things and experience the world.
People think that using a mobility aid is “giving up”, but I think it is exactly the opposite. If using a mobility aid means you are able to do more, be more independent, and experience more, how is that “giving up”?
Many doctors consider mobility aids as unhelpful to recovery. There is the worry that “if you use it you will become dependent on it”. Often doctors have very different goals than a patient might when treating a condition. Doctors will usually want the patient to function in the same way as a non-disabled person might, whereas patients are more likely to be trying to improve their quality of life. Using a mobility aid to be able to do a task is worth the risk that you may always need the aid to do the task.
When you take hot things out of the oven, do you use oven gloves (aka potholders)? Do you really need to use them? Using them might mean you become reliant on them, as you will not have built up your tolerance for touching hot things. You may need to use oven gloves to take things out of the oven for the rest of your life.
In this scenario, almost everyone would agree, it is better to use oven gloves, as it prevents injury and pain. You would not consider this “dependence” on oven gloves, but simply a tool that allows you to do a certain task, i.e. take hot things out of the oven. In the same way, many mobility aid users are not “dependent” on their aids. Using a tool to help you do something is not the same thing as dependency.