News From INDEx

Independent living by Audrie Meraki

What does accessibility mean to me? Accessibility means living your life with dignity and respect. Limiting a person and their decisions, even unintentionally, diminishes their ability to have a say in their own life. It can even cause them to second guess every little thing. People with disabilities are often an afterthought in our own communities.

Feasibility of fully accessible housing or public businesses is often discussed. They seem to forget their aging parent or a child who cannot access their accommodation needs for education or healthcare. We have been fighting for over 50 years just to be a part of the larger community. We still struggle to be viewed as people too. Our culture has been exclusionary for far too long.

An issue that gets to me is my rights as a parent can be removed due to my disability. Or that if I get married then all my benefits will be taken away, or if I get divorced then my former spouse can use my disability as a legitimate disqualification to parent my own child. And would I even be viewed as able to adopt a child if I have a disability?

Being a parent is one of life’s most precious gifts and people with disabilities are not taken seriously as parents. Parents with disabilities can be capable, effective and loving parents. It’s true that there can be bad parents with disabilities, just as there are bad parents with those without disabilities. The disability should never be a part of the discussion as to whether someone is an effective parent.

During the 2002 and 2003 legislative sessions, Idaho became the first state in the US to pass comprehensive legislation aimed at ensuring the rights of parents with disabilities in child welfare, family law, guardianship, and adoption matters (Callow et al., 2011). Judges in Washington State will always make child custody decisions based on what is in the best interests of the child, but the issue is that many do not understand that just because a parent is disabled does not mean that he or she should not be part of a child’s life. We can work together to change that!

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