Parenting can be daunting, and if you have a disability, you will face unique challenges. But with some thoughtful preparations, you can go into parenthood confidently. I offer you these ideas for navigating some of the most common obstacles.
Home preparation. If you have accessibility concerns, you will want to make some home modifications before your baby arrives. Here are some suggestions:
- Zero-step entries. Eliminating stairs getting into and out of your home, as well as throughout your main living area, can really be a boon. Stair steps can be difficult to navigate, especially if you have mobility issues and are trying to carry a little one. Consider installing a ramp. It’s a reasonably inexpensive and easy way to make your home more accessible, and you enjoy the added benefit of making pram use more manageable.
- Widen doorways. Using a walker, wheelchair, transfer chair, or cane is more difficult if doorways are narrow. If physically expanding door frames isn’t reasonable, consider installing expandable or offset hinges on your doors. The hinges add two full inches of clearance, and installation is simple.
- Flooring. Flooring can be troublesome for those with mobility issues, especially if slipping or falling is a concern. Install flooring with a skid-resistant surface. I like vinyl or linoleum since they are inexpensive to buy and install. If you must have carpeting, adding heavy-duty plastic mats can help. Remove area and throw rugs, since they are tripping hazards.
- Play area. Having one room dedicated to play means you can modify the space so you and your little one can fully engage. You can line the furniture along the walls and attach each piece securely to studs, leaving the whole floor available for play.
- Work stations. Rolling workstations can be especially helpful. Set up a cart or table with wheels installed and add your nappies and other supplies to make changes convenient. Make sure your station is a good working height for you, with the necessities easy to reach.
Adaptive equipment. Thankfully, there are numerous devices to help you meet many parenting challenges. The International Society of Wheelchair Professionals notes lightweight prams are available, or some parents employ a child’s wagon to roll a baby carrier. There are also high chairs with adjustable heights that are easy to clean and maneuverable and cots with side access and variable mattress heights. Easy alterations can be a help, like adding wheels to highchairs. I find a little creativity and simple solutions are often best.
Communicate and connect. It’s important not to be isolated in parenting, so reach out when you need assistance. Granted, you’re probably quite clever and used to thinking of novel ways to meet challenges, but there will be times you may need to bounce ideas off others or employ assistive devices to meet needs. Sometimes an occupational therapist can be very helpful, evaluating your situation and helping to find ways to alter your environment effectively.
School age. When it comes time for school, one suggestion is to take advantage of extended services. All schools in the UK offer extended services now, and while they aren’t specifically aimed at helping parents with disabilities, they are advantageous to those juggling schedules with a partner and managing daytime arrangements. Some professionals note driving is an issue for many parents with disabilities, and if this is a concern of yours, extended services are one solution. Breakfast clubs and after-school activities can relieve some of your parenting burden and are great support options that help you flex your obligations, especially if you’re balancing with a partner’s work schedule.
Parenting success! Everyone endures moments of fear when facing the prospect of parenthood, but with some innovation and planning, you’ll do just fine. Make modifications in preparation for your baby’s arrival, look for clever equipment to meet challenges, and think outside the box when finding solutions. You’ll find parenthood delightfully satisfying and successful!