Childcare for disabled children – reasonable adjustments and the right to ordinary lives



Childcare is a part of ordinary family lives. In the modern economy, parents need and are expected to work to support their families – or in the language of Every Child Matters and section 10 of the Children Act 2004, to make sure their children ‘achieve economic well-being’. There is also copious evidence of the benefits of high quality childcare to children’s social development and learning.

So childcare matters – and as the Equality and Human Rights Commission say (see link above) access to childcare is an issue of equality – both disability equality and gender equality given the uneven distribution of caring responsibilities between women and men. It is therefore profoundly depressing if entirely unsurprising that the recent Parliamentary Inquiry into childcare for disabled childrenfound that so many families with disabled children were simply unable to access any childcare – never mind high quality childcare that would meet…

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This evening I have been marvelling at toddler fingers, and how fantastically moveable they are when they work the way they’re supposed to. All flexible and loose and grabby, with wide open hands and a tilt to the wrist that no adult could hope to replicate without looking like a complete arse. Little fingers curled up in a ball and then doing the toddler wave (scrunching fingers as if grabbing imaginary raisins) and then clapping hands and then very gently, ever so delicately, touching the end of my nose just *so* with one little fingertip.

Tiny fingers that can already undo screw tops. That can take a coat off. That can ferret out the merest hint of a biscuit crumb from the smallest cranny in the highchair.

So many things that little fingers can do. All of them a marvel when you’ve seen fingers that can’t.

These Women


Yesterday, as I walked back from dropping off Child 1 at school, I looked at the sky. It was blue, a beautiful deep blue. A few clouds were scudding across the sky, but mainly it was blue. I looked right up and all I could see was that sky. I could feel the buggy containing Child 2 in my hands, the pavement under my feet, hear cars going past and smell that hot dust smell that you get on a warm day sometimes. But all I could see was sky and I felt like I could float away forever in that sky, up and up and up. And as I looked I felt happy.

A few months ago I came across some women. I haven’t met most of them and yet they are probably my closest friends. They know things about me that none of my other friends know. I talk to them every day. I miss them if they aren’t there. They (to pinch a term coined by one of them) are my pocket friends.

And while I was looking at the sky and thinking about my pocket friends I was reminded of an episode of the West Wing. It’s an early episode, entitled The Crackpots and These Women. Towards the end of the episode three of the characters stand talking at a party. They look around in wonderment at the women around them and talk about how amazing they are (it was actually a bit patronising in my opinion, but I’m going to pretend that isn’t the case at the moment). That’s how I feel about my pocket friends. They are all amazing and yet they are not ‘special’. They’re just typical women, like me and like millions of other women. And yet every single one of them is a superhero to me. There are some who work, some who don’t, some who have husbands or significant others, and some who parent alone. There are some who live in the middle of their family and some who are thousands of miles away. All of us I think have found something in our little group that we didn’t know we were looking for. All of us have had some horrible things to deal with, all of us have things that we’re struggling with at the moment – who hasn’t?

In that episode of the West Wing Leo shakes his head and says “These women” in a tone of respectful disbelief at how spectacular they are without even knowing it.

Yesterday, while I walked home staring straight up so all I could see was deep blue sky, feeling that unique sense of smallness that comes when all you can see is the air that’s between us and space, I thought the same: these women. My pocket friends.

And they don’t even know how special they are.