Did you know that in the United States alone, more than 8 million families include at least one parent that has a disability? Millions more exist worldwide, and the numbers are steadily increasing. Whether or not a parent has a disability, raising kids is a challenge. Fortunately, for the struggles unique to parents with a disability, there are many adaptations available to make life easier. There are two different types of adaptive items for parents:
Adaptive Parenting Aids. These are custom-made or adaptable existing products that can be fabricated on a personal basis for parents with disabilities.
Adaptive Parenting Products. These are readily available baby and child care products that can be purchased in retail outlets in the United States or elsewhere. The products described are not intended specifically for use by people with disabilities, but many parents have reported the helpfulness of these products to us. The remainder of this article will deal with specific products in this category.
Products for Wheelchair Users (and Beyond)
Advantage Bag Company Super Pac (Model SP1000): This wheelchair backpack makes an excellent diaper bag. It is roomy and has many different-shaped pockets that hold bottles and other baby accessories. It has quick-release wheelchair handles, a carrying handle, and a shoulder strap, so any member of the family can use it easily. This bag is available at www.wheelsource.com, by clicking on “Products,” then, “Sports Pacs,” and scrolling down to the appropriate model number.
Baby B’Air Airline Safety Harness: This is a harness worn by a baby seated on a parent’s lap (when the parent is seated in an airline seat). The harness attaches to the parent’s airline safety belt. It is also possible to attach the harness to a wheelchair seat belt. Check this out on-line at One Step Ahead.
BabeeTenda Crib: One side of this crib includes a special toddler gate that is useful to parents in wheelchairs who are unable to reach over a standard, drop-down crib rail.
Joey Safe: This child safety harness is an approved alternative to automotive safety seats for larger babies and small children. Some parents also report that this seat belt device is ideal for attaching to a wheelchair seat belt for lap riding, or that the harness straps can assist with lifting a baby from the floor.
The Over the Shoulder Baby Holder: This baby sling allows for natural positioning of a baby for carrying or breast-feeding. It is ideal for people who use canes or crutches, because it allows for even balancing of the baby while carrying. It is helpful to mothers in wheelchairs as well. For more information, visit the Baby Wearing home page at http://members.aol.com/ljcblue/wearinfo.htm.
Playskool 1-2-3 High Chair: This high chair adjusts to several heights and positions. One of the shorter heights is great for feeding and lifting a baby from a seated position.
Other Mobility and Dexterity Helpers
Eddie Bauer Travel System: This stroller (and similar travel systems) are great for new parents who cannot bend over a stroller to lift a baby in and out. The design of the stroller incorporates a baby carrier that is mounted higher than a standard stroller seat. Many moms and dads who are ambulatory, but need crutches or a walker, can use the stroller for support while moving the baby from place to place.
E-Z Change Changing Table Pad: This changing pad has a foam cushion that is scooped out to help keep a baby in place and has a Velcro “seat belt.” This pad acts as a “third hand” while changing the baby. (Constant parental supervision is still required.)
TOT-Loks: This cabinet safety lock is ideal for parents with limited dexterity who find cabinet locks impossible to operate. It consists of a latch that is screwed into the drawer front or cabinet door, which is released when a magnet is held up to the latch. The latch is not visible from the outside of the cabinet, so only the grown-ups know the secret of where to place the magnet to release the latch.
Velcro Disposable Diapers: Diapers with cloth-like covers and Velcro closures are a bit pricey, but for a parent with limited dexterity, such diapers increase independence. These diapers allow the positioning and repositioning of the diaper tabs without ripping the diaper. Many popular brands also offer reclosable tabs that are reusable.
Accommodations for Parents with Blindness or Vision Loss
Pip Squeakers: These adorable baby shoes are ideal for a parent who is blind or has low vision. The shoes have little squeakers built into them that the kids love and as the parent, you’ll always know where they are!
Talking Digital Thermometer: Parents often need to take a child’s temperature. Many drugstores sell thermometers that beep and speak the readout.
Temperature Bottles: When heated, these bottles will sound an alarm when an appropriate temperature is reached. It ensures that the baby will not burn the roof of his/her mouth.
Literature on Parenting with a Disability
Personal circumstances and the need for customized items may require you to search further. One book with additional helpful resources is Adaptive Baby Care Equipment: Guidelines, Prototypes & Resources by Kris Vensand, Judith Rogers, Christi Tuleja, and Anitra DeMoss. This latest publication from Through the Looking Glass (TLG) highlights their most recent research and development of adaptive baby care equipment. The cost is $30 ($15 for low-income). Another resource is Adaptive Parenting Aids Idea Book One from TLG. This publication is a good start toward thinking through some possible modifications or custom-fabricated baby care equipment. To request either order form from TLG publications, you can call 1-800-644-2666 (voice), 1-800-804-1616 (TTY), or (510) 848-1112 (local to San Francisco Bay Area/International/voice).
Jeni Mundl is the Assistive Technology Specialist at Courage Center.