By: MSF Staff
Darlene Borland is not a dull woman. So, after MS affected her gait in her late 30s, she cringed at the idea of carrying a boring cane.
After a search of stores turned up walking aides more suitable for people twice her age, her husband suggested simply sewing her cane a more fashionable cover. She chose black fabric with hot pink zebra-patterned swirls.
“It got noticed, all right,” said Darlene, now 44. People stopped wondering why a young woman was using a cane and started asking where they could get one. Darlene found herself giving the cane covers out to people who approached her everywhere from parking lots to video stores.
A hobby-turned-business was born. Her newest project is making camouflage-covered canes for veterans. “I know I have a good product because I have to use it,” said Darlene, who runs Kickin’ Cane Covers (www.canecovers.org) from her home in Washington. “I didn’t want just a black cane or a gray one. I wanted it to match to me, to make me feel good.”
Though it still can involve some searching, stylish canes are more common than ever. They match eveningwear and sportswear. They are clear, striped and starred. They can fold up or double as a flashlight.
And, at Cool Cane Graphix, they can even have tiny, kiwi-colored cats on them.
Deborah Bogar, founder of the primarily online business (www.coolcanegraphix.com) said leopard print is her biggest seller, but lots of people like the original cool cane – black with large white dots – that Deborah made for herself.
Though she had walked with a cane on and off since her 20s due to an orthopedic problem, when Deborah, now 57, found out three years ago that the worsening of her condition meant she’d be carrying it full time, the graphic designer got to work.
“It not as though no one is going to notice I’m using one, so if I have to have a cane, I might as well have a cane,” she said.
She designed her own, and then a black version with blue and kiwi-colored hearts for her mother-in-law, who wouldn’t carry anything ugly out of the house. Then, like Darlene, she began offering her canes to the general public. Cool Cane Graphix now has 173 prints to choose from, not including a camouflage version Deborah is still perfecting.
Buying a cane because it is stylish isn’t vain, she said. It’s self-preservation.
“I don’t want people to see me as handicapped or an oddity, I want people to see who I am,” Deborah said. “People ask about the cane, they don’t ask about my [disability].”
Give your cane a custom fit in minutes
A physical therapist is the best person to help you fit your cane. If professional help isn’t available, though, here are some guidelines you can use to help you create a comfortable fit:
- Make sure you're standing on solid ground, not carpet. Work someplace with hardwood or tile floors, or on a concrete surface, while sizing your cane.
- Put on your walking shoes. Your height differs with shoes on, so make sure you have on your everyday footwear. Get your doctor’s permission before wearing high heels when walking with your cane.
- Grip the shaft of your cane, not the handle, and twist off the rubber tip.
- Stand straight, with your arms at your sides. Have an assistant hold your cane upside down next to you. Make sure the cane is on the side of your body where you normally would carry it. Consult your doctor if you are unsure with which hand you should hold your cane.
- Bend your elbow about 15 degrees and have your assistant mark your cane at your wrist.
- Cut the cane with a fine-toothed saw at the marked point. Replace the rubber tip on the bottom of the cane. This cane height should allow your elbow to bend slightly, so you have a bit of a “lift off” when walking.
Congratulations! You’re done and you look marvelous.
Llano and Sheila Gorman are the owners of Canes Canada Inc. and believe being mobility challenged doesn’t mean being fashion challenged. Visit them at www.canescanada.com.
(Last reviewed 7/2009)