I recently read a wonderful article about disability in anthropology/archaeology on the same day that I read through one of Deb's blog post comments in which she explained how she interprets the Social Model of Disability. There is a simplicity about the concept I greatly admire - in fact, more than that, it makes me feel safe. All the best theories do, as they pin down the messes of reality into a manageable lump. So, in the words of Aimee Mann, this is how it goes;
Society is what disables us. And that disability can be caused by many different things - physical impairment, emotional distress and even prejudice itself. The impairments are unique and different, but we are united as a group by our universal experience of social disablism.
My father is a great man. He has always kept me safe, whilst encouraging me to be as independent as possible. He has never felt embarrassed about my inability to do normal things, and, indeed, has never acted in a way that has encouraged me to feel embarrassed about my health and the accommodations needed to live with it.
In the last couple of years, my father's health has taken a turn for the worst. I always knew this would be a difficult time. Several times my father has said "It's a good thing you're poorly - I'd never cope as well as you do". And, indeed, he doesn't. But still, I wasn't expecting to hear from him what I did just a few months back.
"Well, I went down to the Post Office today with my walking stick looking like a really doddery old man."
I have been using a walking stick for many, many years. There was a time when I was embarrassed to use it; propping it out of sight if there was someone about who I didn't totally trust. But as I had fewer falls, felt more stable in general and could get in and out of chairs without copious groaning, I was able to get over it. And getting over it was, as with pretty much every problem I've ever had, something my dad's laid back attitude helped with.
|A Pillbox sensitively labelled "Baldwin's Nervous Pills"|
And this is what is so interesting - tech of whatever kind falls into a spacific space.
- Acceptable tech for general use.
- Specialist tech that remains funky.
- And specialist tech for the 'Special'.
"To be truly elegant one should not be noticed."
Brummel said that. Now, I'm not sure I fully agree with him, but presuming that he wanted to be elegant, he wasn't going to be doing something which he felt would make him look "Special" in that horrible inverted commas kind of way. It was a gadget which was as stylish as it was functional. And this is why we should rethink the walking stick. I've seen some pimped walking sticks complete with torches, grabbers and panic alarms. But that doesn't equate to style. Style needs something a bit less worthy...
So my ideas for a new line of respectable walking sticks appropriate of all walks (and staggers) of life;
- Sword Stick - there is something undoubtedly cool about a sword stick. I know they are incredibly illegal in most countries now. But in the UK at least, there has been a dramatic increase in incidents of disability hate crime on the streets. So would arming the disabled populace really be such a bad idea?
- Medicinal Tipple Stick - I do not want in any way to encourage irresponsible use of alcohol (which says a lot about me when I have no problem at all with suggesting that disabled people should hack their tormentors to pieces), but the tipple stick was cool for many of the same reasons why I always wanted a sword stick. So, rather than secreting a stash of booze under the handle of your walking stick, why not replace that with a stash of medicine? But only the good stuff - the stuff a non-disabled person might be willing to knock over a Boots for.
- GPS Walking Stick - Fujitsu actually got to this one before me, and didn't they do a nice job? The GPS stick reminds me of these rather lovely GPS brogues but makes much more sense given that the shoes rely, not only on having two feet, but also an unrestricted view of them (and, having discovered a particularly nice red-wine soaked goats cheese at Tesco, it's possible that in a few years time I might not be able to see my feet any more).
|Screenshot from the film Wall-e showing a levitating|
power-chair user drinking from a large cup whilst our
hero, the yellow robot Wall-e, watches.
Lazy people will always be lazy. But most people aren't, and having pieces of technology available which can help them when they need it and which, most importantly, don't make them feel doddery when using it, will only help to keep them active and productive longer.