Parenting with a Disability
Are you a person with a disability who’s been thinking about having a baby, but may have some concerns about your ability to parent? Guest contributor, Ashley Taylor, speaks about parenting with a disability.
According to multiple studies, there are just over 4 million parents in the United States with a disability, so it’s good to know that disability doesn’t automatically mean a barrier to parenthood. In fact, research shows that children raised by a disabled parent tend to be more empathetic and tolerant of others.
Regardless of your disability, preparation in your home and life is the most important step you can take toward parenthood and is true for able-bodied parents.
ASK FOR HELP
If you’re a disabled person who prides herself or himself on your independence, know that all parents need help from time to time, so it’s OK to need it. Accepting help doesn’t take away from your independence. In fact, it takes a strong person to ask for help. Take an honest look at your level of ability to see what kind of assistance you may need, and how often. If family and friends aren’t available to help you, you can turn to community agencies.
PREPARATION FOR YOUR HOME
Your home may have served you well as a single person or a couple, but is it ready for a baby? Will you be able to parent in it with your particular disability? There are some changes you may have to make to your home to make parenting easier for you and your little one.
Are the doors wide enough for your wheelchair, walker, or other large device you may use in your new nursery? Is there enough space to turn your wheelchair around? Is the crib or changing table low enough or high enough for you to reach? Do you need to install low shelves, add a ramp, or widen the doorway with expandable hinges?
These are just a few ideas to help minimize the challenges you may have.
Writing down a checklist of issues and ideas can be a big help for new parents. There are inexpensive, DIY ways to get your home baby-ready including purchasing “reachers”, which are long tongs to help you with items on shelves that are too high. A camera or baby monitor can help keep an eye and ear out for the baby at night if going back and forth to the nursery is a challenge for you. Or, you could consider having the baby sleep in a specially designed crib with adjustable heights and sides that slide open for easy access.
Besides accessible furniture, there’s a variety of baby-related accessories that are available to parents with a disability including slings, pouches and small, portable table tops. For wheelchair users, there are also baby carriers that attach to the chair.
Other safety issues:
1. Appropriate lighting.
2. Non-slip rugs or carpet.
3. Fire extinguisher within reach.
4. Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.