Our World Isn't Very Accessible for Disabled Parents (And we *really* need to care...)
It’s no secret that we live in a society built on ableism. Most of our world is not built with the disabled in mind. The world of parenting, in my opinion, is guilty of this more so than any other.
I sustained an injury (probably in childbirth but I’ll never know for sure), that has rendered me partially disabled. My injury will most likely heal, which is not the case for most disabilities. It isn’t the kind of injury to land me in a wheelchair, so I feel I still have a lot of abled privilege. But in dealing with a disability somewhat suddenly, I experienced the world in a whole new light. Specifically when it comes to parenting.
I suddenly needed parenting products which either were hard to find, very expensive or just didn’t exist at all. I had to search the internet pretty hard to even find companies that made products for disabled parents to start with, and many of them were not US-based. I had to use some creativity to find a crib that could work with my disability. The car seat that I actually need to make going places with my child more accessible does not exist in this country. Most abled people have never even considered how a disabled parent would get their child in and out of a crib, onto a changing table, or in and out of a car seat.
As a disabled parent, I have been met with discrimination, lack of understanding, and lack of empathy. I cannot lift my toddler much if at all, which makes doing anything outside of the house severely difficult. People have asked me how that is feasible, why I can’t just do it, why I can’t just operate like “normal” people. In addition to the judgment I have faced from other parents, there is the pressure I put on myself to be more like a “regular” parent. I feel guilty when I cannot give my child a “normal” experience because of my physical limitations.
We have to get rid of this abled line of thinking. We have to stop defining certain things as normal and other things as abnormal. There should be no “regular” parenting vs disabled parenting. We have to start being inclusive of people with disabilities. If you are a parent and interact with other parents regularly, ask yourself: is this event accessible for someone with a disability? Could someone get here in a wheelchair? Could someone get here with a stroller? (Newsflash: not every parent has the option to babywear.) Would a parent with disabilities feel accepted and supported here?
We need to do better, and I truly believe we can. If you know parents with disabilities, please reach out and offer to help when you can. They could most likely really use a second pair of hands, feet, arms, and legs. Not to mention a friend who sees them and understands.