by Domonique Howell: For Complete Post, Click Here…
My name is Domonique Howell, a mother and a disability and family advocate from Philadelphia PA. My passion for advocacy truly began when I conceived my daughter. Unfortunately, during my pregnancy I experienced subpar prenatal care, medical disparities, and discrimination because the family practice and other practices at the hospital lacked accessibility and the proper knowledge to care for patients with disabilities, especially pregnant women. Some of the hurdles I experienced included but are not limited to proper OBGYN examinations and the inability to get weighed because there weren’t any wheelchair accessible scales.
The lack of access and subpar treatment led me to advocate for current patients including myself and other patients with disabilities of the future by writing letters to the directors of Obstetric and Family Medicine practices explaining their shortcomings when it came to caring for patients with disabilities and the importance of accessibility for all patients. Even with the hospital paying attention to my diligent advocacy, the battle was not over. At six and half months pregnant, I experienced severe numbness in all of my extremities which in turn led me to hospital bed rest for the duration of my pregnancy and the birth of my daughter. It was there while inpatient, I experienced disability discrimination. My diagnosis is spastic cerebral palsy with limited use of my lower extremities which means that I am a full-time wheelchair user. It is with this disability that the medical professionals assumed that I would not be able to physically take care of my child. The medical professionals decided to take the information from the classic textbook case of cerebral palsy and make medical recommendations for my child and myself. The problem with this beside the obvious ableist mindset is that not one of these medical professionals knew me prior to pregnancy, so they had no idea what my physical baseline was. With their discriminatory medical recommendations, the department of human services were called and thought it best that my child be taken from me at birth and put into the child welfare system. Thankfully, I was able to self-advocate and have informal support in order to stop this from happening. I am proud to say that overall my advocacy efforts did not go unnoticed within this hospital system. Within a two-year period after my pregnancy, the family and obstetrics practice now has a wheelchair scale in their offices and lower exam tables.
While all this was happening to me, I asked so many different agencies and organizations for support but found none. I then decided to give birth to not only my daughter but to Momma Chronicles Too, a support and advocacy group for mothers and women guardians who have disabilities or who have disabled children. Our mission is to support each parent and child; to advocate while experiencing discrimination and disparities. We not only want to support each other but to also give back and pay it forward to the communities we are a part of.