Entertainment & Culture

Do mobility aids have to look so dull?!

New DH contributor, Carrie Webster, shares this interesting article on her experience of trying to find fashionable crutches and the importance of mobility aids needing to look good as well as serving a purpose.

I love jewellery and accessories. I have boxes, drawers and bowls full of earrings, bangles, bags, hats, scarves, gloves and any other item that complete an outfit of mine. As a child, I would spend hours dressing up and sorting through the jewellery I had in my jewellery box. Throughout my teenage years, one of my hobbies was collecting big dangling earrings!

I am a colourful person and I love colour and sparkle (I must be a magpie). I buy clothes with bright colours and bold prints, which make my family and friends often joke I have a pair of earrings or a bag for every outfit. Gok Wan would not need to tell me how to brighten up my wardrobe! The only thing that would let my outfit down was my dull, grey, boring, NHS looking crutches.

I have a mild form of Cerebral Palsy that affects my legs, and even though I am very mobile, I use crutches to walk with. My disability has never been an issue for me nor do I ever wish to be ‘normal’ as I have a very positive and a fun view towards my disability and never had an issue about using crutches.

I always wanted a pair of crutches that were not dull, grey NHS looking because for one, I don’t do ‘dull grey’ and secondly, when you have a physical disability and have to use a mobility aid(s) people do tend to make the assumption that if you are like this than it is a bad thing and that life is hard. Having a disability can be hard for some people for many reasons but for some people, like myself, it is no big deal. Some people wear glasses to see, I use crutches to walk with. Therefore, if I do not have an issue about using crutches for life then I want them to look trendy and funky.

I always thought – even as growing up – how all mobility items and aids look so clinically dull and hospitalised that screams ‘DISABLED’.  I think this reinforces the notion to many non-disabled people that if you are disabled you lead this ‘sad, lonely, grey, dull’ life. There is another notion that, if you are disabled people, then you cannot be fashionable and stylish at the same time.

Over the last few years, glasses have become a fashion trend with many of them having brand names – like Red or Dead – on the side of the arms. In addition, despite many of the glasses being very expensive, many people will buy them. A friend of mine recently said that if she has to wear glasses then she wants them to look nice, and this is how I feel about my crutches. They may be expensive, but then again so are shoes!

After years of looking for funky design crutches on the internet, I finally found a website that would change my life forever, Cool Crutches. Like going into Accessorize to buy earrings, I was amazed by the many colours and the different designs, I was in crutches heaven! Not only do the crutches come in bright and bold colours and prints, they are also designed to make walking more comfortable.

CoolCrutches was set up in 2005 after the founders had used NHS crutches and wanted to design crutches for comfort and style.  According to its founders:

‘We decided to start CoolCrutches to give those injured another option: no more sore hands, solid and robust, yet lightweight, silent, and NOT GREY!  We understand how hard it is to have to walk on crutches, whether for a broken leg or a permanently disabling condition. Under-arm and NHS crutches give you sore hands, click and make you look and feel disabled…..and they’re grey! We decided to start CoolCrutches to offer another option. Our crutches come in nine different colours: black, pink, purple, black and white spots, green, blue and white spots, leopard print, stone spots on cream and blue. They have a washable, removeable neoprene squidgy grip which moulds to left and right hands and makes walking a lot more comfortable. They are a quality product, robust, solid and lightweight. CoolCrutches are a full cuff crutch but the cuff can be removed to make an open arm cuff if preferred. We also offer a bespoke service for your own designs.’

Since finding this website, I have brought four different pair of crutches. My very first purchase was the bright hot pink pair of crutches. A year later, I brought the animal print pair, and in the last few months, I have brought two – yes two – pairs of crutches, using my own designs, one hot pink animal print and one multi-coloured print, which I will call my ‘disco’ crutches.

Over the last few years, there has been many other websites now catering for the ‘stylish disabled person’ whether it is for wheelchairs, crutches or walking frames.

Why should mobility items have to look so boring and lifeless? They are there to serve a purpose, to help make life with a disability better, and for some of us, they are there for life. So instead of them looking boring and lifeless, they should customise to the personality of the person using them.

Since having ‘funky crutches’ I have had so many comments from strangers telling me how cool my crutches are, and now I have a few pairs to choose from, I can totally accessorise my whole outfit.

By Carrie Webster

8 Comments

  1. Thanks for this article – I have another shop to add to my bookmarks! My personal favourite is Switch Sticks (www.switchsticks.co.uk) – so many funky designs! It definitely makes me feel more positive – I can colour coordinate with my outfits!
    The only very small downside is that some people expect walking aids to look boring and lifeless, and with the patterned sticks sometimes they think I am merely carrying a ‘fashion item’ and have no disability! (never mind the leaning on the crutch or anything!) Ah well, it’s not a downside really, as it’s always a good opportunity for me to educate them!
    The patterned sticks are definitely becoming more fashionable – the old ladies that take the bus with me seem to be catching on!

  2. YES NO ONLY NOT LOOKING GOOD BUT NOT D O I N G GOOD EITHER; JUST GOT A WALKER; ; LIKE A MODEL T FORD !!!!!!!!!!!!!! STEERS BETTER !!!!!!!!!!!

  3. I really understand how you mean – I’m trying to choose a new wheelchair at the moment – how it looks is one thing, how it handles another – but why should style be sacrificed at the expense of being functional or conformist to how people expect a mobility aid or device to look? I’ve blogged on this a bit too much…

  4. I have seen “Disabled Fashion” advertised before only to find on investigation it consists of a pair of jeans with a longer leg , warmer material and a jacket with a slightly longer back on it. All practical items for a wheelchair user such as myself but FASHION?..I think not.

    Great article Carrie it highlights very valid points that manufacturers should be picking up on, especially in this current economic climate when any dealer wants an edge.

    Please Please manufacturers let us have more options in Clothing, Mobility Aids and Wheelchairs, remember the Wheelchair to me is My Car so PIMP ME!!

  5. It seems that a lot of times these larger medical equipment companies are more than happy to stick with old, tired technology because they have such a large, ubiquitous market share. I work for a company (SideStix) that makes (in my opinion) beautiful crutches that are also very high quality. However they’re not for everyone, as they are higher-end crutches and do NOT come in a variety of colors, unlike Cool Crutches. I believe that there’s a right piece of equipment for everyone, and the fact that a company is taking the lack of personalization seriously (from a visual perspective) is great.

  6. I got my crutches off the internet after finding out that to wait and see a physio would be 6 weeks!  I found a great pair that were PURPLE yay my fave colour, people thought they looked really good

  7. Actually you are right . one of the best crutches ‘millennial medical’ are very well designed but not stylish to look . I have seen some crutches with stunning design but they lack functionality.

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