Jacqueline Crawford doesn’t want anyone to pity her because she’s legally blind. And she doesn’t want anyone to pity her children, either, by making assumptions about what kind of parent she is.
Crawford is one of six panelists who will speak at a June 13 event, “Parenting Without Pity,” at Town Hall Seattle on First Hill. The event will feature a panel of parents with disabilities talking about how families with and without disabilities can forge ties, and how they can support both each other and children with special needs.
It’s based on a 20-episode podcast series, “Parenting Without Pity,” a project of Rooted in Rights, a video and social-media advocacy program of the nonprofit Disability Rights Washington. (You can listen to the series at https://rootedinrights.org/parents/)
Carrie Basas, director of the Washington State Governor’s Office of Education Ombuds, hopes the event will draw parents from all perspectives to learn from one another. Basas will moderate the panel discussion.
“There’s definitely a disconnect between disabled parents and nondisabled parents,” Basas said. “Disabled parents can feel like they’re not treated as real parents.”
Crawford, who lives in Alexandria, Virginia, and her husband, who is also legally blind, are home-schooling their seven children. Crawford learned how to be a parent by reading magazines, but she tried, and failed, to find a good disabled parent role model. Instead, she had to learn how to do it herself, and to “show my disability didn’t stop me from being a good parent,” she said.
A teacher and writer, Crawford is also the parent of a child with a disability. She says parents of kids with disabilities need to teach their children how to advocate for themselves, a lesson she never learned growing up. “We need to teach kids their disability doesn’t have to hold them back,” she said.
One of her sons was diagnosed several years ago with spondyloarthritis, a physical disability. “I had to learn really fast” to be her son’s advocate, she said. “If you don’t come into a doctor’s office with all of the research and the right language for what your son or daughter has, you’re behind the curve right there.” She’s working on teaching him how to be his own best advocate for the help he’ll need down the road.
Washington ranks near the bottom on federal special-education reports because of its poor student outcomes and segregated classrooms. More than one-third of students who receive special-education services dropped out of school during the 2014-2015 academic year, according to a report from the Department of Education — giving Washington the country’s third-highest dropout rate at the time.
Doors open at 6:30 at Town Hall Seattle, 1119 Eighth Avenue. Tickets are $5, and can be purchased at the door or online at HTTPS://www.disabilityrightswa.org/get-involved/events/