This month is Mobility Awareness Month!
Mobility Awareness Month takes place across Canada in May every year. The month raises awareness about how people with physical disabilities can move freely and enjoy active lifestyles. In addition, the public can learn more about how people can use assistive devices and other equipment to be actively involved in their communities.
Mobility Awareness Month
Mobility Awareness Month is a chance for the public to learn how people use assistive devices to travel:
On outings with family or friends, such as to:
To sports they participate in, such as:
Assistive devices help people move freely and contribute actively to their communities.
A wheelchair is one of the most well-known symbols of accessibility worldwide. Some people use manual wheelchairs which they wheel with their arms. Other people steer power wheelchairs that have batteries and motors. In addition to the wheelchairs people use every day, there are also wheelchairs for specific activities, such as:
Moreover, wheelchairs come in a variety of colours and styles. Some wheelchairs fold up while others do not. Furthermore, some people may use a wheelchair all the time. Others may sometimes use other mobility devices or walk short distances without devices. People may also transfer from their wheelchairs to other seats.
Other people use walkers for stability. Some people use smaller walkers that they push in front of them. In contrast, others use larger ones which they stand in and pull behind them.
Other people may use canes for support and balance. Some people use one cane if one side of their body is stronger than the other. They hold the cane on the stronger side and move it when they take a step with their other foot. For instance, someone with a stronger left side holds their cane in their left hand. As they step with their right foot, they move their cane forward, then step with their left foot. Other people use two canes by holding one in each hand.
Support canes come in a variety of colours and styles. Some canes fold up while others do not. Moreover, support canes are short and often curved. Some canes have one tip that touches the ground, while others can have three or four tips.
Many blind and visually impaired people use white canes to travel. People do not use their canes at home or in other familiar environments because they know exactly where everything is. However, when they travel outside their homes, people will almost always use their canes. Someone walking with a white cane moves it from side to side in front of them. The feel and sound of the cane on the ground or floor gives them information about what is ahead, including:
- Steps or curbs
- Obstacles, such as furniture
- The texture of the ground (pavement, grass, snow, puddles, etc.) or floor (tile, carpet, etc.)
Canes are white so that they are visible to other travellers. Some canes fold up while others do not. Moreover, they are long and straight, rather than curved. This difference makes it easy to tell whether someone is using a cane for support or for mobility. In other words, someone using a mobility cane can usually balance easily. Likewise, someone using a support cane usually has average vision.
Meeting People who use Wheelchairs
Many people do not have friends, family members, or colleagues who use assistive devices. As a result, they may feel uncomfortable approaching someone using one, or wonder how to do so. Mobility Awareness Month is a chance for people to overcome this discomfort.
When meeting someone using an assistive device:
Speak directly to the person using the device, instead of asking other people questions about them.
When talking to someone in a wheelchair for more than a few minutes, ask the person whether or not to sit down to be at eye level.
An assistive device is part of its owner’s personal space. Therefore, only touch someone’s device when that person has given permission.
Similarly, if someone gives permission to move their canes or crutches, keep them within the person’s reach.
Use language or figures of speech related to walking or seeing, such as “step this way or “see you later”.
However, do not use phrases like “wheelchair-bound” or “confined to a wheelchair”. These phrases suggest that people are “trapped” in their wheelchairs. On the contrary, instead of imprisoning people, wheelchairs and other assistive devices free people to live full lives.
Happy Mobility Awareness Month to all our readers!