Self-determined mobility is possible in Kae Tran's everyday life mainly through her walking stick. The aid has become her most important companion. What changes she would like to see in rollators and in society, what role mental health plays for her and how she rolls otherwise, she tells us on REHACARE.com.
Kae Tran: Any day that is pain-free/fatigue-free is instantly a good day but otherwise, I make a conscious effort to make it a good day. I do this by being present and appreciating the people and little moments in my life; I try to be grateful for what I still have, instead of focusing on what I don’t have.
Which auxiliary means or daily living aids are indispensable for you?
Kae Tran: It used to be my car but I don’t drive anymore. Now, it’s my cane. I can’t walk anywhere outside of my apartment without it. Eventually, I will need to use a wheelchair as my disease continues to progress, so I imagine it will be that someday.
What would you like to see from society and your fellow people in dealing with people with disabilities?
Kae Tran: I want society to change its perception of us and recognize that disability can happen to us at any time. Our value as humans doesn’t come from our bodies/minds but rather from things like our ability to overcome barriers such as ableism. I want more inclusion, more normalization, less discrimination, and more education on the diversity within disability and the importance of accessibility.
Which assistive device would urgently need to be invented and/or improved?
Kae Tran: Rollators/walkers! They can be more thoughtfully designed, i.e. adding treading to the wheels, adjustable seating for smaller people, easier brake grips for people with limited hand strength/dexterity, etc. Another one would be exoskeleton suits: Let’s make them compact, affordable, and more widely accessible to the average consumer for everyday usage.
Her cane is her daily companion at the moment. As her disease progresses, Kae Tran will eventually have to switch to a wheelchair. But she always focuses on the present and what she's got right now.
What has been your biggest challenge so far that you have mastered – and what has helped you?
Kae Tran: At first, I thought I would only have physical challenges to adapt to but I continued to learn it would be much more than that: I learned my mental health really mattered too, and that I was getting in my own way of daily happiness. I had to learn how to cope on my own and learn to lean into my support system as my disease continued to progress. I also had to learn to let go of what I imagined my life would be like and embrace life’s new plans. It will always be a continuous, evolving journey with this disease and therefore, managing my mental health is equally, if not, more important than my physical because if there is no will, there will be no hope or motivation to keep me going in any capacity.
What can the assistive technology industry learn from the Corona pandemic to make life easier and/or better for people with disabilities in the future? Kae Tran: Everyone now knows that remote working/learning/participation was always possible and that there can be more than one way of doing things. If you think helping the "small" disabled community isn’t motivating enough, then let the experience from the pandemic remind you that the world actually needs more accessibility and innovation in our lives in order for it to be a truly inclusive society.
If nothing was impossible: Who would you like to meet one day and why?
Kae Tran: Tough question because everyone has a story. But I guess anyone who has been dealt difficult cards in life and still found a reason to radiate willpower, positivity and kindness.
What I wanted to say ...
Kae Tran: Life is sweet, life is fleeting, and life is fragile. Be kind, live presently, and tell your loved ones you love them.