DAA News Network

USA: Women may lose son because she is disabled

Posted 22/12-09 at 14.27

Kaney O'Neill, a wheelchair user from Des Plaines, Illinois, is facing legal action from her ex-partner over the custody of their son. He claims that because she is disabled, she is not "a fit and proper person" to care for the child.

Ella Callow, the director of legal programs for the National Center for Parents with Disabilities and their Families, said that in many cases custody was granted to the non-disabled partner "...even if they have a history that might usually be a heavy mark against them -- not having been in the child's life, a history of violence, etc."

A local divorce lawyer has argued that the partner's concern is entirely legitimate. He says that O'Neill would likely not be able to teach her son to write, paint or play ball. "What's the effect on the child -- feeling sorry for the mother and becoming the parent?"


Editorial comment: The attitude of the divorce lawyer demonstrates the kind of prejudice faced by disabled parents not only in the US, but throughout the world. It will be interesting to see whether Article 23 of the UN Convention, dealing with the right to a family life, has any real impact on this. Although the Convention does call for the equal treatment of disabled parents, it also says that the " the best interests of the child shall be paramount. Given the widespread negative cultural assumptions as to the ability of disabled people, it is not hard to see how this reservation may be used to discriminate against disabled parents.


Comment added 02/1-10 at 22.43 by: Lowvisionary (robyn.hunt@accease.com)

As a disabled mother with 2 wonderful grown daughters who have always been my best allies I think I have done OK. I have encountered several cases where disabled mothers in particular have been prevented from parenting their children. I do think this issue will require concerted action both nationally and internationally.

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