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Is disability becoming more mainstream?

Recently I bought a new walking stick. I’ve used one on and off over the last few years, but as my health had declined I opted to invest in a new one that I could use regularly.

I started doing some research and found it difficult to find what I was looking for. That was until I stumbled across ‘Neo Walk’. I ordered myself a fabulous, made to measure clear acrylic cane with a comfortable handle, and suspended gold glitter. It’s given me a lot more confidence to use a stick and it’s really changed my day to day.

Neo Walk was new to me, so I have been surprised by the amount of people who have recognised the brand when I’ve used it out and about.

Since using it, I’ve had several comments from people who had seen Neo Walk on ‘Dragons Den’.

In my experience, both as a disabled person and someone who has worked with disabled people for many years – I think this is the only time I’ve known people to take an interest in a mobility aid.

Don’t get me wrong – Neo Walk walking sticks are great to look at. They have different colours, they’re customisable and some of them even light up. But it’s got me thinking – what has caused this interest?

I think this goes to show the impact representation on TV can have. This small business being featured on Dragons Den meant that lots of non-disabled people knew of the brand, enough to recognise it when seeing it out in the wild.

Noticing the brand means they’re noticing disabled people.

It’s been such a refreshing change to have enjoyable and positive conversations with strangers about my walking aid. It’s been nice to have my disability acknowledged, my stick choice complimented and not have to answer any intrusive or uncomfortable questions about it.

COVID19 is said to have caused long term disability in over 450,000 people and could be much higher in the future. As more people become disabled, will this rise in numbers affect social attitudes? Will we notice a shift as so many people and their families come to understand what ‘being disabled’ comes with? Fighting for basic rights, tackling stigma and discrimination, difficult conversations with friends – this can be a lot to deal with when you’re still getting grips with the way your mind and/or body is affected by illness.

I hope that as representation is on the rise, we can spread more of this positivity and understanding, and come together in the call for inclusive and fit for purposes services, accessible to all who need them.

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