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 subjected to disability discrimination when accessing and participating in education, employment and in the provision of goods, facilities and services, including healthcare services and housing.
In order to help people with disabilities overcome the barriers that exist within society there is an obligation on education providers, employers and service providers to make 'reasonable adjustments' for people with disabilities.
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 help you if you are blind or have a visual impairment.
Human rights protection
You have the right to make your own mind up about becoming a parent. You should not be denied fertility treatment because you have a disability.
Under human rights legislation there are a number of relevant parts to parents with disabilities, including:
- 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
- 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
- Human Rights Act 1998
The law about children is designed to keep a child safe and well and, if necessary, help the child to live with their family by providing suitable services for 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.
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.
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).
As part of their monitoring role they hold decision makers to account and will report to a United Nations committee on how the convention is being implemented.