Warning: The video referenced in this post contains content that may be objectionable to some people and content that is inappropriate for children. However, the video has been viewed on YouTube more than six million times and it contains a very strong message about overcoming the mindset of being disabled.
Excerpt of Article by Amy Merrick | The New Yorker
Three years ago, Liz Jackson, a thirty-three-year-old Harlem resident, noticed that her feet had begun doing something she describes as “plopping”: the front of her foot would hit the ground before her heel when she walked. In the beginning, it was subtle, a quirk she couldn’t reliably reproduce. One evening, about a month after the plopping first started, she and her partner were walking home from dinner when she noticed that it was happening with every step. They recorded a video to show Jackson’s parents and doctor. The following morning, when Jackson tried to get out of bed, she collapsed on the floor. After a visit to the emergency room, she was diagnosed with idiopathic neuropathy—nerve damage with no known cause. She learned that she would need eyeglasses to ease the frequent migraines and a cane to lean on for balance.
The cane soon became a source of self-consciousness. “My eyeglasses would get compliments,” she told me, “but my cane would get a funny tilt of the head from people, as if they were thinking, ‘What’s wrong with you?’ ” For months, she was despondent. One thing that helped her recovery was finding a purple cane, while browsing online, to replace her drab, hospital-issued one. “I went from walking hunched down, wanting to hide, to actually being proud of it,” she said. Sometime afterward, she was shopping at J.Crew, her favorite store, and it occurred to her that her cane would look beautiful with the brand’s Kelly-green T-shirts. That led her to begin asking J.Crew, through e-mails, blog posts, and open letters published on Facebook and Twitter, if it would sell a fashionable cane—to broaden its customer reach and to help ease the stigma attached to assistive devices.
Still, it’s particularly difficult to design a good cane. It has to distribute a person’s weight properly and hold up to constant use. It can’t slip or skitter across the ground. Because engineers focus on function, aesthetics are often overlooked. Alicia Contreras, who worked as an assistive-technology educator in Oakland, California, helping people learn to use devices such as canes and crutches, told me that her clients are constantly wishing for something more stylish. “It’s a brave step to recognize that you have to use a cane,” she said. “The image that immediately comes to mind is that you are an old person.” Like Liz Jackson, her clients want canes that they won’t feel ashamed of. Many of them have foregone traditional canes and have turned instead to hiking sticks. Unlike a cane, a hiking stick lends the impression of vigorousness, as if the person carrying it to the grocery store is merely warming up for a weekend trek. “They were proud of them,” Contreras said. “They felt like, ‘I am active, I am safe.’ ”
More people are showing off their prosthetics’ intricate mechanisms or, indeed, treating them as a fashion statement, adding slip-on covers with designs of wood grain or lace. Viktoria Modesta, a Latvian-born model and singer who bills herself as “the world’s first bionic pop artist,” wears a number of stylized prosthetic legs in the video for her song “Prototype”— one lights up, one is covered with Swarovski crystals, and one resembles a shimmering black ice pick. (Modesta chose to have her left leg amputated below the knee at age twenty, following fifteen surgeries.) The video has been viewed on YouTube more than six million times.
To read the complete article by Amy Merrick, click here.
Thanks to Amy Merrick for writing the article; The New Yorker for committing its resources to the article; YouTube for hosting the video; Viktoria Modesta for sharing her story; Google for helping me find the article; and all the other people who, directly or indirectly made it possible for me to include the picture, video, and text in this post.