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nightengalesknd

June 2017

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[personal profile] nightengalesknd
I don’t need my cane. I can walk without it. I walk more steadily with it. I have the stamina to walk further and faster. I have less pain when I use it. It helps me up curbs so I don’t have to go as far out of my way to find curbcuts. It is helpful getting off the bus. I don’t use it at home or at a friend’s house. I don’t use it around the part of the hospital where my office is. I use it for speeds, distances and to keep balance in crowds.

I don’t need my glasses, either. I can see without them. I see better with them. I can see things further away, such as the TV screen, a presentation or the faces of my patients. I have fewer headaches with them. They help me see street signs so I don’t have to stand under them to read them. I am legally required to wear them if I drive. I don’t always wear them at home and take them off at my desk to read. I can walk around safely without them. I use them to see things at a distance more clearly.

People would tell me that I shouldn’t use a cane if I don’t need one. It’s a crutch. (It’s a cane, actually.) It makes me look disabled. Insurance companies often won’t cover power wheelchairs if the person can take even a single step inside their own home. There’s a lot of cultural narrative and medical narrative about only using mobility devices if they are 100% absolutely necessary.

But there’s no similar cultural narrative about eyeglasses. No one would ever tell me not to wear glasses because I can see without them. (Actually I don’t think there is any person who can’t see at all without glasses, who can see even some with them. Eyes don’t work that way.) Glasses, even part-time glasses, are pretty acceptable in the society in which I live. It’s OK to put them on when helpful and removing them when not.

This distinction fascinates me. What, really, is the difference between a cane and eyeglasses? They both can decrease pain and increase ease and efficiency in life. More people benefit from glasses. Is that the only real difference, the only reason that glasses are “OK” but hearing aides, canes, wheelchairs are not?

The Social Model of disability would say that disability occurs with the interaction between a person’s impairment and society expectations. Society expects that some people will wear glasses to see better and that making the choice to wear glasses does not imply anything deeper about a person in most circumstances. Society says that people who cannot walk as expected are a different sort of person, a lesser sort of person, and so someone shouldn’t look like or be that sort of person unless absolutely necessary.

Absolutely necessary. Why are other things not held up to that same level of scrutiny? I have an apartment full of other things I want but don’t need, that I find useful or even just ornamental but not necessary. I don’t need a food processor. I don’t need jewelry. Why should I have to need a cane?
Date: 2016-07-31 03:46 am (UTC)

From: [identity profile] androgenie.livejournal.com
I wish I had a good answer...I wonder how much is related to *when* glasses became something other than a disability related thing...
Date: 2016-07-31 06:06 pm (UTC)

From: [identity profile] nightengalesknd.livejournal.com
Yeah. That's what fascinates me the most. There's no biological reason to treat glasses one way and other devices a different way. And glasses have been viewed differently depending on time and place. Is it simply shear numbers - when enough people benefit from something, it isn't strange and "other" anymore? Is it that people whose vision is corrected to 20/20 with glasses are perceived as normal, while people who use other devices are still perceived as disabled?
Date: 2016-08-01 01:08 am (UTC)

From: [identity profile] gallian.livejournal.com
I wonder....

When canes/walking sticks were a style embraced by the elite what was the perception of those who used them for mobility? (Or do we have an apples/oranges problem there? And if so where did the posh walkjng stick effect come from? And why didn't it stick?)

Because we have the current trend of people who wear lenseless glasses to look chic that seems analogous.
Date: 2016-08-01 01:47 am (UTC)

From: [identity profile] nightengalesknd.livejournal.com
I know pitifully little about the fashion of gentlemen and walking sticks of that era. I don't know about the perception of them by the truly disabled, but I am sure that few of those posh gentleman would ever deign to think of themselves as crippled.

All I can say is that the more I think about all this, the more angry I get about how insidious the societal construction of disability really is.
Date: 2016-07-31 08:54 am (UTC)

From: [identity profile] secretshadowss.livejournal.com
This is a really interesting and thoughtful post. I wonder if I can have your permission to share this post with a friend (who also walks with a stick from time to time)
Date: 2016-07-31 05:46 pm (UTC)

From: [identity profile] nightengalesknd.livejournal.com
Oh yes, please share.
Date: 2016-08-01 02:25 am (UTC)

ext_23092: (pam2)
From: [identity profile] lilituc.livejournal.com
Oh, man. I usually don't tell people that I don't need my cane all the time, because it just seems to result in that sort of thing - they want to know why I would have it all the time if I don't need it, or any of the time (which I don't get). It's like they can't understand it unless it's a fixed state. The thing is, I can't predict when I will need it. Sometimes when I get up from sitting, I feel ok, and sometimes I really don't. There doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to that. Then there is the complicated situations where my muscles just stop working temporarily (no diagnoses yet). People just seem to expect every day to be the same, and think that wanting to always have the cane with me is some kind of personal defect ("who would want to do that?") and not practical in not wanting to fall down.

That anyone would appear disabled when they didn't absolutely have to (appear that way) seems to astound many people. I even hear it from other disabled people, that I'm letting my limitations hold me back. That attitude makes no sense to me - falling down because I'm too stubborn to take a cane with me seems pointless. Trying to do things I can't is actually something I tried over and over, with a 100% failure rate - somehow pretending I wasn't disabled didn't result in me magically sprouting wings or something. But I have learned not to say these things, or to explain that I started using a cane full time in 2005 after I went to a concert of my favorite band (who reunited that one time) and was knocked down 9 times.

In a way, halakha seems easier on this to me - you *should* always have the cane with you if you need it sometimes, because then legally it sort of becomes an extension of your body rather than a separate object which carries with it certain restrictions. Well, easier for me, that is.
Edited Date: 2016-08-01 02:26 am (UTC)
Date: 2016-08-01 03:16 am (UTC)

From: [identity profile] nightengalesknd.livejournal.com
Oh yeah. This is a place I can talk about part-time cane use safely. The Real World - isn't.

I like your halakhal argument. I mean, if I might "need" it when I get to where I'm going, then I need take it there with me.

Our naysayers are drawing a false comparison. They are trying to make it "use a cane/be disabled" vs "no problems/willpower!"
But of course the true comparison is "use a cane and get around somewhat better" vs "don't use it and get around worse or not get around at all."
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