The Sammy Shuffle: part 6

Visibility and Disability:

For me, being visibly different is more of an advantage than a disadvantage. My crutches make me visible, they allow me to go more places and do things that I wouldn’t be able to do as easily without them. And they make people take notice. The best possible example I can give of this, of the advantages of having a visible disability (and using crutches or another aid) is my first day of high school- any day in high school really.

My high school is small, only 800 students in total. But just wait until the bell rings, “Class dismissed!” and all 800 of us spill into the the hallways and the 5 minute mad dash begins as we scramble to make it to our next class before our respective instructors lock their doors shut and begin their lessons. In the hallways it gets a little crazy. And a little cramped. And hard to move. With crutches and a few loud “Excuse mes!” however, it gets much easier. People give me space- not a lot, but enough.

I can, and do walk without crutches and I can get around fine without them. But, it is a lot harder, it takes me a lot longer, the chances of my landing on my butt are much higher and I wear out much much faster. Walking a few blocks to the mailbox and back on crutches takes me five minutes and has no impact on my energy level whatsoever. Walking without them takes 10-15 minutes and feels similar to doing a running sprint in the pool.

I have no problem going crutch-less for short trips, or standing or sitting all day, or being up and down all day. I have worked 8 hour shifts standing behind the register at Mike’s Gelato, I have spent days in the offices of On Q K9 Training and Canadian Mental Health on the computer, answering phones, standing to make copies, running to get the door and escorting people back and forth, but for walking/running continuously or for long periods I need and prefer to use my Sidestix.

Using crutches makes me visible. It helps me to be more independent, I’m pretty easy to spot in a crowd and it is a great conversation starter. It also provides excellent proof to anyone who might ask, that yes, I do have a disability and some minor adaptations may be necessary. And while there are down sides to being so obvious, such the stares (and the stairs), fast judgements and relative difficulty of blending in with the crowd, the pros significantly outnumber the cons.