Rights, legislation and parents with disabilities
Parents with disabilities have the same rights as parents with no disabilities. There is no 'parents with disabilities' legislation as such, but certain legislation and guidance protects the rights of adults with disabilities - including in their roles as parents.
Your rights of equal access to health and social care
People with disabilities have a right not to be discriminated against on grounds of their disability in education, employment and in the provision of goods, facilities and services.
In order to assist disabled people to overcome the various barriers that exist within society there is an obligation on education providers, employers and service providers to make 'reasonable adjustments' for disabled people.
For example, you have the right to get information about health services in a format that is accessible to you where it is reasonable for the service provider to provide it in that format. For example, a hospital may provide forms and explanatory literature in Braille or large print to assist you if you are blind or have a visual impairment.
Human Rights Act 1998
You have the right to make your own mind up about becoming a parent. You should not be denied fertility treatment on the grounds that you have a disability.
In the Human Rights Act 1998 there are a number of provisions that are relevant to parents with disabilities, including:
- Article 8: the right to respect for private and family life - the state can only interfere in family life if it is necessary for the protection of others, for example children
- Article 12: the right to marry and to found a family - social care services and health providers should take all reasonable steps to help you have a family including giving advice and support before and after your child is born
The Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1995
The Children Order (Northern Ireland) 1995 is designed to keep a child safe and well and, if necessary, help the child to live with their family by providing services appropriate to the child's needs.
Local councils should, for example, make sure that health and education departments and housing associations work together to protect and promote the welfare of children.
If your local council thinks that your child is 'in need' then it should carry out an assessment under the Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1995.
If you are over 21 years old and you can provide a permanent, stable and caring home, your application to adopt a child will be welcomed. Health and well-being do play a part in the adoption assessment process, but you are not automatically disqualified because you have a disability.
Once you have made the decision to seek to adopt a child, you will need to contact an adoption agency to make an initial inquiry.
UNCRPD – disability rights
The Equality Commission for Northern Ireland and the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission have been designated as the 'independent mechanism' for the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (UNCRPD).
They are monitoring the implementation of UNCRPD, holding decision makers to account and will report to a UN committee on how the Convention is being implemented.