This week marks the 25th anniversary of the passing of the Americans with Disability Act. I’ll be celebrating it in various ways on this blog for the remainder of the month, but today I want to talk about one thing that is NOT covered under the ADA.
The rights of parents with disabilities.
Imagine something with me for a minute.
Imagine you are blind. Close your eyes for a moment, take a breath.
Feel yourself in this skin, you are as capable and intelligent as you’ve ever been, you have drive in your given profession, motivation and you are successful. You have friends, you belong in a community, indeed; you help create community.
You have worth.
And you are still blind.
You are blind.
Now imagine that you give birth to a child, Your child is sighted.
It doesn’t matter in the least to you that you are blind; as a capable person, you have braille books, you have assistive technology at your disposal. You continue to work and support your child despite your separation from your partner.
It’s a life that has beauty and meaning; so much joy!
And you are still blind.
Here – this is a glimpse of what your life is like:
Now, imagine this.
Your child’s father, the one whom you separated from, says that you are an unfit parent on the basis of your blindness.
And that is it. Your ex-partner has nothing else to grasp at – you are a professional, you earn a decent income; the only thing that is arguable about your very existence is your disability.
In the United States of 2015, a person with a disability can have their custody of their child challenged purely on the basis of their disability. “The fundamental right to parent without interference is protected by the U.S. Constitution and balanced by the judicially recognized power of the state to interfere to protect the well-being of its children… Nonetheless, these rules have not been objectively or justly applied to parents with disabilities.”*
“Parents with disabilities are the only distinct community of Americans who must struggle to retain—or even gain in some situations—custody of their children”
Can you imagine?
Being put on the line and having to prove – PROVE! – that you are a fit parent from a malicious challenge from someone? It harkens back to when someone could call the authorities on a gay parent and they would automatically be suspect.
Can you imagine what this entails – not to mention effort and expense to prove yourself fit in order to keep your child?
This has happened to countless people with disabilities – and is currently happening to Jessie Lorenz. It’s unthinkable, a travesty of justice and fairness that is hard to believe – in fact, I think a lot of people want to believe there is some catch, she must have done something, right? – But NO. She is a great mom. Her only real mistake in her life was in her choice of a baby-father: but should she have her child removed simply because of that?
Imagine what this is like for her right now.
Her child is on the line. Every material possession, every cent she has saved, every thing that she has will go to fight this accusation that is only able to fly because of the legal discrimination that exists against people with disabilities.
Please consider doing what you can to help battle this unimaginable situation.
More Information from Jessie
From the American Bar Association: Can Parents Lose Custody Simply Because They Are Disabled?
Meriah Nichols is a counselor. Solo mom to 3 (one with Down syndrome, one on the spectrum). Deaf, and neurodiverse herself, she’s a gardening nerd who loves cats, Star Trek, and takes her coffee hot and black.