Parents with disabilities face numerous challenges when caring for a newborn. Besides the usual lack of sleep and anxiety about such a small and dependent life, much of the equipment for infants and children present substantial barriers for parents with disabilities. Changing tables are built for standing, bathtubs can take two (or more!) hands, and cribs require parents to have substantial flexibility and lifting strength.
My wife is a little person; when she's out of the house, she uses crutches and a lower-body brace which doesn't bend. Around the house, we keep most of our storage low to the ground, and our activities are on the floor. Dinners on a patterned rug with Japanese lacquered-table place settings are a great way to relax after work!
By the time we brought our newborn daughter home from the hospital, we had been thinking about the many adaptations needed to care for her. We consulted several times with Judi Rogers at Through The Looking Glass
in Berkeley, a terrific organization with resources, advice and designs, and uniquely engineered equipment for parents with disabilities. Some things were easy: a mover's dolly to move stuff around; a padded changing pad on the floor; trays of supplies stored in our coffee table. But using a crib posed a challenge.
Cribs are manufactured according to strict standards
designed for the safety of the child, not for universal access; the railings are all 2 or 3 feet off the floor, and a foot or more above the mattress. Because infants are left unattended in cribs overnight, they need to be built in such a way that the child cannot accidentally fall out of the crib or get any part of their body (especially the head and neck) trapped between components. The Consumer Product Safety Commission
has publicly accessible explanations
, as well as formal guidance