As Father’s Day (June 19) approaches, we remember fathers of all stripes, but one segment of the population of fathers that we would like to focus on this year is dads with disabilities.
While there are many resources for fathers of children with disabilities, it is more difficult to find resources for fathers who have a disability themselves.
Perhaps this is because we live in a culture that sometimes assumes unconsciously and mistakenly that people with disabilities are not likely to be parents. Some may entertain stereotypes about disabled individuals’ ability to have children or to provide for them once they are born.
But the facts speak against these unfortunate assumptions. In the the article “Through the Looking Glass” published by the National Center for Parents with Disabilities, Paul Preston points out that 15 percent of all parents of children aged 18 and under have a disability, and millions of parents around the world have disabilities.
But popular perceptions do not match this reality. According to a landmark document published in 2012 by the National Council on Disability, which advises the President and Congress, “Discrimination against parents with disabilities is all too common throughout history, and it remains an obstacle to full equality for people with disabilities in the present.”
The report goes on to make specific policy recommendations to keep parents with disabilities and their children from being separated, either by losing custody unjustly or by lacking medical resources.
But the value of being a dad despite disability is evident from the many stories of amazing fathers who faced disability head on. One example was Ken Weas who appeared in an article in PN Magazine a few years ago. His daughter wrote about how much he did for her growing up despite having paraplegia. He even managed to walk her down the aisle on her wedding day by using a new standing wheelchair.
Another father, featured on AbleThrive.com earlier this year, reared his daughters while being deaf and blind. One of his daughters talks about how creative her father, John, had been throughout her life in order to face the challenges of fatherhood and disability. For example, to keep his mischievous daughters from sneaking out of the house at night, he would sleep in the door. This shows that with just a little creativity, fathers with disabilities can surmount the particular challenges they may face.
The fact is that fatherhood is both a blessing and a challenge, and that is true for everyone, regardless of disability. Fathers with physical limitations cultivate joy in their homes and work hard for their families. Just ask their children!
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