National Federation of the Blind Applauds Government Guidance on the Rights of Parents with Disabilities
Baltimore, Maryland (August 11, 2015): The National Federation of the Blind (NFB), the nation’s leading advocate for the rights of blind parents and their children, applauds the new technical assistance document Protecting the Rights of Parents and Prospective Parents with Disabilities, recently issued by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office for Civil Rights Administration for Children and Families, and the United States Department of Justice (DOJ), Civil Rights Division, Disability Rights Section. The document is the first being issued under a new partnership between DOJ and HHS to advise state child welfare agencies on their obligations to avoid and prevent discrimination in the provision of services.
Mark A. Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: “Many blind parents have experienced the waking nightmare of being placed under investigation or having their children taken from them by state child welfare agencies or courts, solely on the basis of blindness, without any specific evidence of abuse, neglect, or other dangers to the children. The National Federation of the Blind has represented many such parents; indeed, some of our cases are ongoing. Other blind parents, like my wife Melissa and I, know that such an ordeal is only a misguided intervention away, be it by a health care professional after a routine childhood mishap or just a next-door neighbor unfamiliar with the techniques that we use to raise our children. Inappropriate interventions like this not only discriminate against disabled parents and harm their children, but instill fear in the hearts of other parents with disabilities, making them less likely to utilize state resources that may help their families. This guidance makes clear that, in order to comply with federal law, decisions affecting blind parents or other parents with disabilities must be based on individualized determinations supported by objective evidence, not generalizations, stereotypes, or misconceptions about people with disabilities. The guidance further makes clear that services such as parenting classes provided by child welfare agencies must be equally available, with reasonable modifications if necessary, to parents with disabilities. The National Federation of the Blind wholeheartedly applauds this wise and much-needed guidance. Our organization is ready and willing to provide training on the techniques blind parents and grandparents use to fulfill their responsibilities without vision and to work with blind parents-to-be in using those skills and techniques. We invite state agencies, courts, and other entities involved in protecting America’s children to work closely with us to create understanding and eliminate discrimination.”
For more information about how blind parents successfully care for their children every day, watch this video produced by the National Federation of the Blind of Missouri, or read the NFB brochure Parenting Without Sight.