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New Arizona law helps protect the rights of blind parents

Most people disabilities have multiple stories of people making inaccurate assumptions about what they can and cannot do. These assumptions often involve parenting. Unfortunately, when teachers, physicians, judges and others make these assumptions, parents can have their children taken from them. Currently, 37 states and Washington, D.C., have laws that allow the termination of parental rights based on disability.

Arizona is making a dent in this type of discrimination with a law that taking effect this August. Under the new law, anyone who disputes a parent's competency based on that person's blindness must prove that the disability makes the parent unfit. This relieves the burden of having to prove that you can take care of your child despite your blindness. It also prevents anyone from being denied custody of their child or the opportunity to foster or adopt a child due to their blindness.

The law is the product of work by advocates for the blind like the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) of Arizona. It's not clear whether Arizona's Department of Child Safety (DCS) has removed a child from a home for that reason because the DCS didn't respond to media inquiries. However, an official with the NFB notes, "Throughout the nation, in places like Kansas or Nevada, we've seen kids being taken away from their parents solely based on the fact that their parents are blind." The state senator behind the legislation says that cases like those have some blind Arizona parents "living in fear" of losing their children.

One Tucson mother, whose son is now grown, says a doctor once balked at removing her son's tonsils because he didn't believe she could provide adequate post-surgery care. In fact, there are plenty of tools available for blind parents, from talking thermometers to braille clothing tags and more.

When one sense is compromised, others are often heightened. The young man raised by this Tucson mother says that when he was little, she could hear him open a drawer that was off-limits from several rooms away.

Parents with disabilities may have to deal with the misconceptions of others during a divorce. One blind California mother spent two years in a custody battle proving that she was capable of caring for her child following a divorce. Anyone facing legal challenges to their ability to parent due to a disability can and should seek experienced legal guidance.

Source: AZCentral.com, "If you can't see, can you parent? New law aims to protect blind guardians," Maria Polletta, May 30, 2018

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