FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
National Federation of the Blind Applauds
National Council on Disability Report
on Rights of Parents with Disabilities
Baltimore, Maryland (October 5, 2012): The National Federation of the Blind, the nation’s leading advocate for the rights of blind Americans, today applauded a recent report issued by the National Council on Disability (NCD), an independent federal agency that advises the president, Congress, and the federal government on disability policy, highlighting the discrimination faced by parents with disabilities. The report, entitled Rocking the Cradle: Ensuring the Rights of Parents with Disabilities and Their Children, describes systemic discrimination against parents with all kinds of disabilities, including blindness, by courts and social service agencies in custody and child welfare proceedings.
Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: “The National Federation of the Blind has fought for custody and visitation rights of blind parents repeatedly over the years, in both divorce proceedings and cases brought by child protection agencies. Blind people often find their fitness as parents questioned solely on the basis of blindness, and in some cases misconceptions about their capabilities result in the children of blind parents being removed from their homes by the state. Situations like this are not only heart-wrenching for the parents, but also violate federal law and their constitutional rights. Furthermore, by engaging in this discrimination, state officials responsible for the protection of children may actually have an adverse effect on the welfare of these children. If parents with disabilities have cause to fear that they will lose their children, then they may avoid seeking medical and social services that they need. We are saddened but not surprised to learn from this comprehensive report that parents with other disabilities have experienced discrimination as well, and in some cases had their parental rights terminated solely on the basis of disability. We will continue to fight for the rights of blind parents, and to advocate for the needed attitudinal and legal changes that will make discrimination of this kind a thing of the past.”
In a recent case in Missouri, a newborn infant was taken from her parents by social workers at the hospital solely because the parents were blind. The child was not returned to her parents for two months, during which they were only allowed limited visitation and lived in fear that their parental rights would be terminated.