Someone commented the other day, ‘You need to show some steel.’ They had noticed my sock almost completely covering the very visible steel part of my prosthetic leg. Even though my ‘leg’ is constructed from fiberglass, it could easily pass for a ‘real leg.’
I was sharing with them the significant change that has taken place in the last month regarding my public visibility as someone with a disability. When I used to get around in a wheelchair, with or without the prosthetic leg, it was immediately obvious to passersby that I had specific accessibility requirements. People would make space for me on the street and in public transport.
Of course, there have been shops and situations that remained challenging to navigate, and times when people didn’t notice my situation and got in the way. Nevertheless, overall, things were pretty good.
However, as I’ve begun to walk with my prosthetic leg, I’ve started to become somewhat ‘invisible’ to passersby. I’m now at the same height as most people, and there’s been no reason for them to look down, notice my leg, and recognize my limited mobility.
It’s a bittersweet feeling because it signifies progress in my rehabilitation process, but it also highlights my ongoing needs. When I’m out in public, I walk slowly and deliberately due to the risk of falling over. I’m particularly concerned about children and dogs, as they often run about without considering my situation. Additionally, people walking while engrossed in their mobile phones rarely notice others who might require assistance until the last minute.
A few days ago, I was on a bus with an elderly couple, and all three of us needed walking assistance. Unfortunately, no one noticed our needs because they were immersed in their phones.
I’m just as guilty as the next person for spending too much time on my mobile device. But one crucial lesson I’ve learned in the past few months is the importance of paying attention to the world around you, both for your benefit and that of others.
That’s why I’ve started to lower my sock a bit further to ensure that the cold, hard steel of my leg remains visible while I still have these mobility needs.