A Girl Trying To End Disability Stigma with Her Purple Cane, and Our Help

by Elle Brosh

Two years ago, an idiopathic neuropathy entered Liz Jackson’s life, transforming a hustle and bustle metropolitan lifestyle into one of unexpected instability. Yet, while she has faced many moments of debility, weakness and despair have never been in the cards for Liz. With this new fate, Liz has taken her challenges and transformed them into focus, patience, strength, and most importantly, activism. 

Since then, Liz has come a long way, and she couldn’t have done it without her purple Sabi Cane. In addition to being the sole blogger at “The Girl with the Purple Cane,” Liz has also dedicated herself to finding creative ways to address the stigma of assistive devices. This new commitment to disability studies rooted in personal experience has resulted in a campaign called “Yes J. Crew Cane.” 

“Yes JCrew Cane is an ongoing effort to ease the stigma of certain assistive devices (such as my cane) while looking at the mainstream vs. hidden worlds of disability.”

In her various blog posts and letters to J. Crew, Liz illustrates how assistive devices, such as canes are one of the ways individuals with physical impairments move through public space. By incorporating canes into the fashion world, the way these bodies are perceived will be more positive because assistive devices would be less stigmatized. 

Liz demonstrates the potential of this idea by making a comparison to the way that glasses are not stigmatized because they are understood as having both an aesthetic appeal as well as a genuine function. In fact, we all know how uncool it is to wear glasses without a prescription, right? So, in making this parallel, Liz is highlighting the possibility of reclaiming the fashionable aesthetic of the cane to lessen its medical associations and thus, dismantle disability stigma. 

As an alternative to buying a cane from a ramshackle medical store next to a hospital, Liz’s #YesJCrewCane movement would enable individuals to purchase canes in affordable style. Introducing the elegant, quality Sabi cane to J. Crew’s “In Good Company” line would not only contribute to a beautiful movement that is, at its core, advocating for inclusion and respect, but heightened awareness would also make room for more constructive work in the realm of disability studies. Getting a high-profile, mainstream retailer like J. Crew to collaborate with Sabi, would hopefully spur a movement towards ending disability stigma while also providing a more fluid understanding between the onlooker and the cane user.

Liz is not proposing that carrying a cane should change the way others treat or see someone, but how they respect that body in public space. Her cane should not be perceived as an ailment or a misfortune, but what she calls a “cane nod,” or a small performative indicator that speaks for itself, but in a way that relieves her of annoying downcast eyes and instead heightens regard. 

“I am telling you that if the subway is full, I will gladly accept your seat. If nobody gives me a seat, my cane gives me the guts to ask you for your priority disabled seat. I am telling you I am wobbly on my feet. I am telling you that when I say excuse me, I really mean it. I’m telling you there’s a reason I am walking slowly through the crosswalk, so please don’t honk. My purple cane says all that and so much more.”

While her purple cane is “a protector” and “a source of understanding” it’s also stylish and sleek as f***. However, it is not just the dapper appearance of the cane that will have an effect on the way society views assistive devices and disability, it is the movement towards inclusion. In the same way that fashion has the potential to promote self-esteem and body positivity, Liz’s movement shares a similar sentiment, and so much more.

Let’s stand in solidarity with Liz’s campaign and support it, because she’s “dead set on beating you to stigma” and she will, so watch out.

Read more about Yes J. Crew Cane here!
Sign the petition here!
Visit Liz’s website here!


Images courtesy of Girl with the Purple Cane

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