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[Editor’s note: Jillian Day created 508Assist.org to help people all across the web make their sites accessible to individuals with disabilities. A close family member, who has a visual impairment, had trouble finding a dinner recipe online that he could read easily. This inspired her to start 508Assist.org.When she’s not chasing after her little ones, Jillian enjoys being outside, whether she’s fishing, hiking, or geocaching with her family.]
Bringing Home Baby When You’re a Parent With a Disability
by Jillian Day
Disability or not, preparing your home (and life!) for your baby’s grand entrance has its challenges. If you are one of the many people with a disability who will soon be a parent, you may have some unique challenges, but you’ve also got some unique strengths. What some new parents may see as insurmountable, you may see as simply a minor bump in the road. When it comes to some of your unique challenges, though, here are some invaluable tips and tricks presented by Whispers of Hope to help you prepare for this amazing time in your life.
Identify Your Needs and Make Modifications
Take a tour of your life, beginning at your front door. Picture yourself navigating with a baby. Evaluate every step and every action you’ll need to take, and then come up with any necessary modifications you’ll need. If carrying your baby up a flight of stairs feels out of the question, look into getting a ramp installed or buying a prefabricated one.
If you use a wheelchair, you’ll need to modify your baby’s crib. While there are expensive adaptive cribs available, another option is to shorten or remove the legs of a standard crib. You may even want to keep the crib next to your bed at first. It will make those middle-of-the-night feedings and diaper changes so much easier!
Assess what you will need for your baby’s bath time, too. Handling a slippery baby is a challenge for anyone. It’s a good idea to enlist the help of your partner or a friend at first. If you don’t already have a hand-held sprayer in your tub or shower, now is the time to get one. It will make bathing your little one a lot easier and safer. Also, set a safe maximum temperature for hot water (no higher than 120 degrees F), and invest in handrails by the tub and non-slip mats wherever needed.
Find a Better Fit
If, as you review your home for your new parenting needs, you feel upgrading your current property will require a little too much work, remember that moving is always an option. There are many accessible homes on the market, many of which may be within your price range. Research mortgage rates and get a sense of how much a new home would cost you monthly. Then, come up with a budget and calculate how much you can afford to spend. Depending on how close your due date is, you may be able to out-wait higher interest rates. But if you don’t want to risk cutting time close on upgrades and moving, you may need to move forward regardless of the current rates.
Not sure how to look for an accessible home? Get in touch with an experienced real estate agent who can help you navigate the local real estate market. They can help you find the right property, whether it’s an as-is house that could use some TLC, new construction, or an older home that needs slight modifications.
Utilize Available Resources and Support
Some healthcare providers include home visits where an expert can evaluate your living space and offer modifications to make parenting chores easier. They’ll also lend out adaptive equipment for you to try, and will offer suggestions on ergonomic best practices.
Make Safety Your Priority
Having a baby brings safety to the forefront of your mind. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to baby proof your house and make keeping your baby safe even easier. Here’s a list of all the safety items you’ll need to childproof your home before baby makes their debut:
- Install baby monitors.
- Install a carbon monoxide detector on every floor if your home has an attached garage or is heated by oil or gas.
- Make sure your smoke detectors are in working order.
- Get an air quality monitor for extra safety, especially if you live in an area with poor air quality because of smog or fires.
- Have several fire extinguishers on hand for emergencies, especially in the kitchen and around any sources of heat.
- Put corner guards on all furniture with sharp corners.
- Have a first-aid kit for babies and take an infant CPR class.
- Install childproof locks on all cabinets within reach and any containing poisons, medicines, and cleaning supplies.
- Install stair gates or even gates to separate off areas of the house that are less baby friendly.
- Eliminate any dangling cords, particularly window blind cords and power cords.
- Cover any electrical outlets with caps or sliding plate covers.
All of this modification and safety talk may seem daunting right now, but all the time and effort will be more than worth it when you meet your baby. You’re about to embark on the journey of a lifetime. Yes, there are some exhausting days ahead of you, but you’ve also got some of the best days of your life ahead as well. Between your prior life experiences and these tips and resources, you’ve got this. Enjoy your baby, and remember to get your rest!
Whispers of Hope advocates for and works with people with disabilities. We want to destigmatize disability so that people will see the entire human being, while appreciating what we offer to the world. We also offer support services, so visit our website to see how we can work together towards disability acceptance.