For parents with disabilities, the memorable phrase “it takes a village” is more than just an idyllic hope. In the United States, it’s the law. In the landmark 1999 Olmstead v. L.C. ex rel. Zimring case, the U.S. Supreme Court officially mandated community support for disabled families. Subsequent public debate has focused attention on a problem that had gone all but unnoticed. Today, disabled parents are entitled to the same support services that parents without disabilities take for granted, things like day care, tutoring and carpooling. These “personal assistance services” make the difference between being a good parent and parents who hope to do well for their kids.
Personal assistance services help more than 13 million disabled individuals and their families. Disabled parents receive help carrying out basic daily functions such as eating, bathing and dressing from friends and family, and get assistance with custodial activities like cleaning and shopping for groceries, which is funded by insurance and public sources. Clearly,the availability and diversity of aid has expanded significantly since the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Olmstead v. L.C. There are more resources than ever for disabled people who want to become parents.
Finding help online
The Internet is an excellent source of information for disabled parents at the national, state and local levels. Parents with Disabilities Online is a one-stop repository for information provided by disabled parents themselves. Through the Looking Glass is a nationally known organization and resource that provides access to resources and training opportunities for disabled parents nationwide. It is also a useful venue for disabled parents to network and exchange information. The Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation provides an online toolkit offering a comprehensive run-down of disabled parents’ rights.
Tools you can use
Disabled individuals have proven that they can be effective parents by following some basic steps for establishing a safe and efficient home environment. You can help lay the groundwork by finding equipment at baby supply stores that can help make your job easier. The Mobility Resource is an excellent place to locate cribs, carriers, strollers and other equipment specifically for disabled parents. Furthermore, you will likely find that as you navigate parenthood, you will come up with your own unique parenting tools and hacks. Plus, with a DIY attitude or connections with a skilled builder, just about any piece of furniture and equipment can be modified to meet your needs such as a crib that opens from the side or a raised changing table to provide ample room for a wheelchair or other assistive device.
A safe, accessible environment
Preparing your home for children is a practical task that can be accomplished with a healthy dose of common sense and a knowledge (and acceptance) of your physical limitations. Placing gates on your bathroom, kitchen and basement doors (if applicable), as well as locks for cupboard doors, is important and a good starting point. If you’re in a wheelchair, find a baby carrier that works for you. If you walk with a crutch or cane, consider purchasing a one-handled stroller. An adjustable baby bed with a drop side can improve accessibility at nap time or when a diaper change is needed. Don’t forget to spend some time babyproofing too, as children are notorious for getting into mischief around the house, especially once they become mobile. Go room by room and make sure anything that could be a safety hazard, whether due to tipping, ingestion, choking, etc., is properly secured or stored away. Put up child-proof gates and locks to block access to off limits areas such as stairs, garages, basements, and cabinets.
The success and availability of in-vitro fertilization have given hope to many infertile couples who cannot conceive. Since 1978, 5.4 million babies have been born worldwide with the help of IVF. However, the financial burden can be too much for many, even with private health insurance. One treatment cycle may cost as much as $25,000, depending on the techniques involved. Fortunately, there are viable funding options available, such as IVFAdvantage, that can help make IVF a reality.
Over the past two decades, the stigma associated with parenting in spite of a disability has gradually eroded thanks to government and public support, and a more enlightened public perspective. In many ways, preparing for parenthood is much the same for disabled people as it is for those without disabilities. Research, common sense and an emphasis on safety constitute a useful approach and make for a healthy and nurturing home environment.