There are over 4 million parents with disabilities in the United States, and 1 in 10 children have a disabled parent, so it would seem logical that there would be a large system of support. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. In 1923, the Supreme Court established parental rights, but it appears that parents with disabilities don’t hold this same right, as they often see their children taken away. While the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) seeks to protect disabled parents, the lack of help and support is still present. Here are a few ways to get the support you need in various areas of your daily life:
1. Support positive legislation – While it might not seem like much is being done in support of disabled individuals, there is an ongoing legislative initiative you can show your support for. A proposed Parental Rights Amendment (PRA) to the U.S. Constitution would provide direction for courts, child welfare workers, and related government officials to determine how to make decisions regarding children, and protect the rights of the disabled, including disabled parents. So, how can you help? Start by contacting your local Congressman or write to your local paper, and employ family members and friends to do the same. Let your voice be heard.
2. Take advantage of services – Personal assistant services (PAS) are a key component of support for more than 13.2 million people with disabilities. PAS help disabled individuals, and parents, with daily living such as eating, bathing, dressing, cooking, and cleaning. In a survey of 1,200 disabled parents cited by the National Council on Disability, 43 percent said they needed help enjoying recreational activities with their children, 40 percent needed helping “chasing and retrieving” their children, and 40 percent needed help with travel. Other areas of cited help were lifting/carrying children, childproofing, bathing, and playing.
3. Speak up – As a parent with disabilities, you’ve likely heard this two-faced compliment: “You’re doing a great job considering your disability.” The issue is that many people don’t understand what it’s like to be a disabled parent simply because they aren’t one. Although it might be difficult not to get upset, try to use it as an educational moment to enlighten others about your specific disability. You could even use this as a time to cite some of the issues you have trouble with, such as getting your children to school on time or getting them dressed in the morning. Perhaps others have ideas you haven’t thought of, or possibly can offer their own assistance. It takes a village to raise a child regardless of any sort of disability.
As a parent with disabilities, you face your own personal obstacles, and sometimes it can feel as though you are being judged based upon your abilities. However, the judgment often stems from the fact that people aren’t educated about your disability and have no idea that you are able to successfully parent your child just as well as they could. To get the support you need, support crucial legislative efforts, seek the help of available services, and educate others – let the conversation start with you.