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'Too pretty to be disabled?'

Pippa_Alumni Scope alumni Posts: 5,793 Disability Gamechanger
edited January 2019 in Research and opportunities
Today in the Daily Mirror, Ellen (who has EDS) explains how 'people tell her she's "too pretty to be disabled" when she uses a walking stick in public.' You can read the full story here.
When she began using the stick to help with her mobility, Ellen felt she became "hypervisible" and started getting "sheepish glances" while out in public.

Now, Ellen uses her stick differently, saying it has become "an extension of her body".
She now uses bright and colourful patterned sticks to express a part of her identity.

What do you think of Ellen's story? Do you think people treat you differently for using mobility aids?


  • Markmywords
    Markmywords Member Posts: 419 Pioneering
    It's all about expectations and prejudices. An older person, like me, would not raise an eyebrow for using a stick. A young person would, especially if they are above average for attractiveness.
    The old media has been pushing their images of "perfection" for decades. "New Media" has such people making money as influencers on social media platforms.
    Society's expectations have become twisted over the years. Attractive people are now regarded as superhuman and simply must be happier and healthier than everyone else because the media says so.
  • Ails
    Ails Member Posts: 2,256 Disability Gamechanger
    I agree, it is definitely due to some people's perceptions of disability.  It is like it is unbelievable to actually be disabled, but be attractive also?!  It is terrible that Ellen has suffered such abuse, but it sounds as though she is tackling it head on by embracing the fact that she uses walking sticks.  This can only be a good thing in challenging people's attitude to disability.
    Winner of the Scope New Volunteer Award 2019.   :)
  • laceypeach
    laceypeach Member Posts: 35 Connected
    This is something I struggled with in the beginning of my disability, being 21 and using a walking stick made me very self conscious because of other people's reactions to me using the stick. Attitudes are changing and people are beginning to understand that disabled people come in all ages, ethnicities and not all disabilities are visible.
  • Waylay
    Waylay Member Posts: 971 Pioneering
    I get this too.
  • easy
    easy Member Posts: 216 Pioneering
    I feel very uncomfortable when I use my walker.
    I do not understand why I should as it enables me to get around which i can't do without it. I tell myself if I use it I will get used to it and I wont notice any more.
    I am 62 but still not at all confident.
  • laceypeach
    laceypeach Member Posts: 35 Connected
    I totally understand how you feel, I am sure I will get used to using my stick but it's like I push my body unnecessarily rather than maintain with the stick. I choose to stay at home rather than use it. 
  • Topkitten
    Topkitten Member Posts: 1,285 Pioneering
    I have always been ok with using first one stick and then two and now scooters. However, as most people seem to agree that I am still quite attractive (not that I agree), I do get odd looks at times and always see difficulty in others trying to avoid certain subjects. I do find that people are more uncomfortable when I use the scooter instead of sticks.

    My condition is spinal and completely invisible and I can see, at times, the disbelief in others faces when I state how bad it is and they are surprised I don't look more ill. Even more confusing to them (even health professionals) is that I claim accurately of suffering pain levels of 8, 9 or 10 from certain actions but I never show it. I am so used to living alone and having no visitors that I have conditioned myself not to bother showing even high pain levels. Only those that know me well can see it in how I get about in such cases.

    I have often found things very difficult because not only is my condition invisible but also unique. It has no name, treatment or cure and has to be described in a few words which is difficult as it is complicated.

    To look at when sitting or standing still I look perfectly healthy and mid 50's, only when I move slowly and painfully do people take notice of a 62 year old cripple.

    "I'm on the wrong side of heaven and the righteous side of hell" - from Wrong side of heaven by Five Finger Death Punch.
  • LyndaMcK
    LyndaMcK Member Posts: 25 Connected
    I understand why Ellen and the others feel so self conscious, but there is no excuse for degrading comments from members of the public. 
    I too, at 64 felt very self conscious using my sticks to begin with, but I have learned that I don't need to look at everyone, (to see how they react!). A big part of the problem for me was the way I handled myself in public and realising that my own response was possibly triggering a bad outcome.
    Nowadays I go out with the attitude that other people have their own problems to deal with too. If I notice someone staring, I try to catch their eye and simply give them a smile! You wouldn't belief how that breaks the tension and it's hard for them to smile back if they are having negative thoughts about you.
    I do know that it has helped me to stop looking for reactions from folk, (and working out in my head what I think they are thinking!!)
    I am not saying this is easy, but we can choose the attitude we take with us.
    For me it was well worth it - it got me out of my big self pity party.?
  • goblinqueen
    goblinqueen Member Posts: 16 Connected
    I get very conscious of using my stick when I need it - I find that the oap brigade want to know why you’re using it down to every little detail - fine when I have someone with me as I feel I can fob them off but when you get stuck with one of them on the bus and they try to tell you what you should use it drives me insane 
  • wilko
    wilko Member Posts: 2,452 Disability Gamechanger
    You don’t have to worry, people who knew me before I was disabled and they saw me using a mobility scooter asked what up with me? Being honest and telling them a brief history of my diagnosis and disability has been a positive thing for me, people I meet know of my disability and no comments are made about my health only about how I cope regarding the wet or cold. But having a sense of humour about myself, life and things in general makes talking to strangers, friends and family memebers easy. Life is to short to worry what others are thinking and who cares I’ve worked all my life seen changes for the good and the bad done things seen things and I am grateful for the care I have received from the NHS in my diagnosis and the GP practice that have been approachable by phone and my consultant by email. Be proactive about your health care and try not to relie on others unless you have to
  • Benistmonk
    Benistmonk Member Posts: 343 Pioneering
    Yes that can happen, me, I was told I was too handsome for ESA.
  • LyndaMcK
    LyndaMcK Member Posts: 25 Connected
    @wilko -
    Great attitude! :) 


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