Today’s post was written by Ashley Taylor, a parent who has disabilities. Together with her husband, who is also disabled, Ashley has set up Disabled Parents.org, a website to support other dads and mums with disabilities.
Caring for a baby is challenging for anyone, but prospective parents with disabilities are often faced with some additional child-rearing roadblocks in their path. To overcome them, they might need special products, accommodations, and training to create a safe environment for themselves and their newest family member.
Here are some suggestions to help you plan ahead for some of the unique parenting challenges you might face.
Evaluate Your Home
If you’ve been living in your current home for a while, you’ve probably done some renovations to make it more accomodating and accessible for you. But, depending on your disability, carrying a child could make moving around more challenging, so you might want to make additional modifications with that in mind.
For instance, it may be easier to push a stroller or other baby gear up and down a ramp rather than trying navigate stairs at your home’s entrance, and adding a ramp is usually relatively easy. You can purchase a ready-made ramp at a hardware store or build one yourself. There are also ramps designed to help people who use scooters, wheelchairs, or walkers safely navigate over thresholds inside a home.
Or, if your expanding family is seeking a larger home, you’ll certainly need to keep accessibility in mind when house hunting. Choosing a property on a level lot with paved walkways or sidewalks to a step-free entrance is a good start for people with mobility issues, according to information from Easterseals. And you might be fortunate enough to purchase a home with many additional accommodations, such as slip-resistant flooring and wide doorways that are easy to move through with a wheelchair, walker, or transfer chair.
There are also a variety of products on the market that can increase a home’s accessibility without major renovations. For example, offset or expandable hinges are affordable, easy to install, and can add a couple of inches of clearance to doorways. And some slip-resistant flooring options are relatively simple to install. For instance, rubber flooring with a slip- and water-resistant surface might be a good choice for kitchens and bathrooms.
Researching Childproofing and Childcare Gear
Whether in your current home or a new one, you may also be faced with a few unique childproofing chores if you have a disability. For parents who use a wheelchair, accessible areas to prepare meals are a must. Likewise, cooking tools need to be within easy reach, as do medications and other necessities, such as household cleaners.
While your baby might not be crawling or walking anytime soon, it’s not a bad idea to assess your home for hazards early, especially if putting things away in high cabinets isn’t an option for you. If that’s the case, consider investing in cabinet and drawer locks and make sure you can operate them easily well before your baby is mobile enough to explore.
Parents with disabilities may also need to invest extra time in finding or adapting gear to make childcare easier for them. For example, some companies manufacture wheelchair-accessible baby furniture, but it can be expensive. However, many parents make modifications such as installing doors in conventional cribs or changing tables. So it can be helpful to talk to healthcare professionals and other knowledgeable people about safe, simple products or projects that might save you money.
Accessing Training and Resources
In fact, there are hospitals, nonprofits, and other organizations that provide resources and training specifically geared toward parents with disabilities. Your healthcare provider might also recommend physical or occupational therapy to help you prepare for the demands of parenthood or learn adapted, ergonomic techniques to tackle day-to-day parenting tasks. It makes sense to ask your doctor early in the pregnancy process about what’s available locally so you will have plenty of time to take advantage of any training or support.
Addressing parenting challenges proactively and assessing your environment with childcare chores in mind will go a long way toward making you more confident and competent once the big day arrives.