Cane walking (part one)


In an attempt to accelerate the recovery of my achilles tendon injury, I underwent two Shockwave treatments; one in November and one in January. After each of those treatments, I was not allowed to walk for two days. For the 12 days after that, I was advised to “walk as little as possible, and as slowly as possible”. Knowing myself, I knew I had to find an external tool to keep myself from disregarding all pain and barge up and down the large Jan Schaefferbridge at the end of my street, to then do an aerobics video in my living room. File under: how I acquired this particular injury.

Inspired by a Hannah Witton video, I decided to buy a foldable walking stick that fit inside my purse. On a side note: there must be a difference between a cane and a walking stick, but I haven’t been able to figure it out and will therefore use both words when referring to the same thing. Anyway, this walking stick would both be supporting me and making sure I couldn’t walk faster than I should, but it would also signal to the outside world “I have difficulty walking, please don’t rush me”. Because The Netherlands in general and Amsterdam in particular is a stressed out mess.

Having lived here for the majority of my life, I am well aware of this fact, but I must say that every time I (due to illness or injury) am not able to keep up with the pace, it’s a shock. Amsterdam’s public space in particular is completely unsuited for anyone who has even a small mobility issue, let alone a large one. There’s bikes everywhere, curbs are often ridiculously high, elevators and escalators are regularly either broken or blocked by (you guessed it!) bikes, the traffic situation is often completely unclear. On top of that, most if not all Amsterdam pavements are wonky and far from smooth. I have been told that this is due to ground water level shifts and not because we are bad at laying pavements.

What also doesn’t help, are the almost constant renovations and works in various areas of the city. And of course the fact that after all this, a huge amount of tourists and a huge amount of people actually living here who are trying to get to work are thrown into the mix.

The resulting situation can only be described as “a complete mess”. Amsterdam has clearly become a city for young, healthy people, and I’m quite sure that I don’t have to explain to you why this is Not Ok.

2 Responses
  • Samantha
    May 14, 2019

    I have to admit that, as a mobile, healthy person, Amsterdam in particular didn’t cross my mind to be so unfriendly towards the elderly and people who are less mobile. But, now that I think about it, I can definitely see how canes, wheelchairs, scoot mobiles, and walkers are a hassle in the hectic mess that is Amsterdam. That’s quite a tragedy.

    Unfortunately, Amsterdam is not the exception. My work in another town has a hightened entrance, making the shop difficult to enter for the impaired. The city, the only one who can change the entrance, doesn’t care. Head office insists we stuff the shop to the brim with stuff, making it difficult for people in wheelchairs and scoot mobiles to navigate.

    My village seems to be doing much better for the accessability of shops and doctor/pharmacy at least. The only hassle is public transport because most trains require ascending a few steps to enter the wagon. I don’t think you could take the bus; you’d have to order a service. So yeah, leaving my village would be a real problem…

    • LP
      May 22, 2019

      I do believe it’s often more a case of “we never considered it” than “we are assholes, fuck you and your weelchair”, as most healthly, mobile people just don’t think much about accessibility – they don’t have to. While I do think that with more awareness people would be more mindful of it and act accordingly, I think that that would still leave a lot to benevolence, which is never good. Having laws in which is clearly stated what measures should be taken and how (of course created with very strong input from people actually in the community, as they are the experts), would work best. While the US has its foibles (understatement), they do have a very strong disability lobby, and accessibility is way more “normal” than it is here: I once took the bus in San Francisco, and at the bus stop two ladies in electric wheelchairs were waiting, for the bus. I figured they were waiting for a special service bus, but no: the busdriver of the regular bus just walked to the back, folded up a few chairs to make room, lowered her bus and the two ladies just rode on up into the bus without any assistance. It was amazing to see that they could just go out and catch any bus they wanted without having to call in advance or bring somebody specifically to help them. It was such a contrast with the way people who use wheelchairs here in The Netherlands are able to get on and off the train. We really need to step it up.