From Jessie Lorenz

Re: Blind Mom Legal Defense Fund?

In short, it’s forced me to take off my mask, to let go of my perfectionism and to ask for help. And this is not going to be a short post…I am in awe and am humbled by the response. Thank you.

Some of you have asked me questions that I’d like to answer. As it happens, I’ve been asking myself a lot of questions these past few days as well, so here goes…

Q: Jessie, didn’t you do this court thing once before?
A: Yes. The restraining order expired, my kid is about to start kindergarten and there is nothing in CA family law that prohibits one parent from submitting a motion to the court asking for custody based on my blindness.

Q: Why is it going to cost so much?
A: Because disabled parents have to create their own evidence proving that we are fit to parent. In CA a custody evaluation costs a minimum of $20,000.

Bias abounds in the family law system. In testimony to the Maryland General Assembly on a bill to curb the type of discrimination in this case, the President of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland said:

“Myths and misconceptions about blindness are prevalent in society. The root cause of myths and misconceptions is due to the sighted innate fear of the lack of vision. Sighted people who suddenly find themselves in a dark room or who wake up in the dark think that they understand blindness. They do not appreciate that the problems of blindness can be mitigated through proper training in alternative skills. The real problem of blindness is not the lack of sight, but the attitudes about blindness held by the sighted public. All too often, the sighted public still views blind persons as helpless and dependent. To eliminate bias and discrimination, all family court professionals including judges should receive training on a regular basis concerning parents with disabilities and their children.”

Q: Can’t you get free legal help? 
A: I am not eligible for free legal assistance at this time.

Q: Why doesn’t the disability rights movement take a page from the GLBT movement and have a league of advocates and defenders ready to stick up for our families? 
A: In my opinion, the ADA generation will need to fight a similar looking fight as our allies in the GLBT movement have in order to change an antiquated court system that stigmatizes our families under the ambiguous legal umbrella of doing what is in the best interest of the child.

As a society, we have become accustomed to – and even desensitized to – custody disputes which arise from many of the 50% of marriages in the United States ending in divorce, yet disabled parents regularly lose custody of their kids in a family law system that hasn’t caught up with society’s evolving notions of what it means to be disabled.

As for the role of disability rights organizations? – we need organizations that are willing to get involved in family law matters in order to affirm, protect and de-stigmatize our families. I’m unequivocal about that.

Thank you so much for your support. Most days I feel ill-equipped to be waging this battle, but then I remember JT and I think about what Brine Brown said, “Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is difficult but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy, the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkest we will discover the infinite power of our light.”

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! 

Meriah
Meriah Nichols is teacher and artist who lives in a yurt off the grid. She is deaf, has 3 kids (one with Down syndrome) and a lot of chickens. She writes about travel, disability, and getting dishes done. She likes her tea Earl Grey and hot.
Meriah

@meriahnichols

#deaf mom, teacher & #disability activist, living in a yurt #offthegrid. 3 kids (1 with #downsyndrome), a camera and a lot of chickens. Never a dull moment
So lovely. Thank you for this, @OjiDannelley, and your message needs to be heard. #poweronhttps://t.co/UD0fSaTH7l - 24 hours ago
Meriah