Assistive Technology and Parents with Disabilities
Below is an edited excerpt from the Iowa Assistive Technology Project’s free comprehensive handbook, Assistive Technology for Parents with Disabilities (PDF - Get Adobe Reader):
Parents with disabilities have the same universal goals and desires for their children as other parents. They want to provide their children with a loving, safe home and to participate fully in their children’s daily lives. They want to prepare meals, help with homework, and play games with their children.
Assistive technology redefines what is possible for parents with disabilities. Devices for diapering, play, feeding, mobility, safety, and hundreds of other commercially available devices can increase the ability of parents with disabilities to provide a loving and nurturing home.
Families in which one or both parents have a disability face significant barriers to the acquisition of assistive technology. Publicly funded agencies such as Medicaid, Vocational Rehabilitation, and schools, typically fund devices that can be used for medical, vocational, or educational purposes, but will not always fund devices that are strictly used for “parenting”. As a result, many families who could benefit from using these devices do not have access to them.
For years, parents with disabilities have been making do without any specialized child care equipment or by using homemade adaptations to make parenting easier. Even with the explosion of new assistive technology, there are very few commercially made items that meet their needs. Two problems parents most often report are their frustration about the lack of information presented in accessible formats and supportive guidance to help them prepare for parenthood. Many parents with disabilities describe the need for equipment for carrying and transferring infants and toddlers. Parents with older children describe the need for technology and adaptive equipment to support their involvement in their children’s educational and recreational activities. Items that promote safety in child rearing are also extremely important to them. Home modifications that make a parent with disabilities more independent are critical to both the safety of the adult and child, and the ease of parenting.
Resources for Assistive Technology for Parents with Disabilities:
Through the Looking Glass (TLG) is a nationally recognized nonprofit center that has pioneered research, training, and services for families in which a child, parent or grandparent has a disability or medical issue. Their mission is "To create, demonstrate and encourage non-pathological and empowering resources and model early intervention services for families with disability issues in parent or child which integrate expertise derived from personal disability experience and disability culture."
Founder Trish Day has had cerebral palsy since birth and is a full-time power wheelchair user. When her own child, Diana Michelle, was born in 1996, information, support, and resources for parents with disabilities were not readily available. The resources that did exist were hard to find, and word of mouth was the only means of sharing information. Parents with Disabilities Online is her personal effort to change this.