disAbility Maternity Care says it's time for dads with disabilities to shine

Updated: Sep 6

✦ Now, mind the (disability) gender gap. We invite all dads with disabilities to build your visible presence in the world; to speak up, to turn up, to play up.

Dads with disabilities fly under the radar

In September, we celebrate fathers; we hero our dads, their dads and our children’s dads, spoiling them with breakfast in bed and a kindy appropriated colourful painting.

But where are the dads with disabilities? Where are they being heroed?

They obviously exist. Afterall, who hasn’t cheered on Kurt Fearnley as he hurls towards the finish line to win yet another gold medal in wheelchair racing? And who hasn’t applauded Michael J. Fox as he receives endless accolades for his work on both the big and small screens. The fact that they are dads flies largely under the radar; indeed, they are reduced to being ‘just’ sportsmen and actors.

Local hero and father from Queensland, Adam Sheppard is an athletics coach, personal trainer, retired para athlete and former Australian record holder, plus partner in the inclusion and disability services business, InvincAble Accessibility, Inclusion, Diversity and Education (InvincAble AIDE for short). He was born and bred in the Sunshine State and lives with his wife of ten years, Christy, and their three year old son, Fletcher. Having been born with his disability, Spina Bifida, and the medical condition hydrocephalus, Adam has been part of the local disabled community for many years; whether it be through the various sports he has been involved in, the many committees he has participated in or the community and advocacy groups he has worked tirelessly for. Adam is well known to be an all around good guy. Instantly liked by those he meets, he not only inspires kindness, generosity, compassion and altruism in others, he holds himself to a high standard and lives by these principles himself. [Image from disAbility Maternity Care Instagram: Adam is wearing his bright orange iFLY racing suit and sitting in his wheelchair]⠀

It's time for dad's with disabilities to shine

Whilst it is wonderful to count Fearnley and Fox’s excellent achievements as a win for the disability community – this wonderfully diverse community deserves more.

How can our young people grow to have positive attitudes if they aren’t exposed to positive representation of dads with disabilities in every context, including social media and real-life?

It is time for these dads to celebrate their differences in a framework that enables more members of the disability community to relate to.

It's time for these dads to celebrate their differences, disability Maternity Care as featured in Brilliant-Online
Toby Dawson is a dad, a husband and an IT geek. He is also in a wheelchair and has been since the age of 11 when a ‘routine’ heart surgery didn’t go to plan.

Listen to podcast with Toby Dawson

Do dads with disabilities believe their stories don’t matter? Do they feel like they are playing second fiddle to the main characters in their lives? Is there a stigma hangover from times gone by when people with disabilities were desexualised and frowned upon should they dare to entertain the idea of becoming a dad? Or, perhaps it is the financialisation of the ‘biggest, strongest, fastest’ where men find their meaning and value, rather than being the ‘normal’ dad shovelling vegemite sandwiches into his toddler’s mouth at the local park.

disAbility Maternity Care encourages dads with disabilities to build their visible presence in the world, inspiring future generations to embrace their unique strengths.

Why role models are important

In the chaos of COVID-19 and its sequelae, strong, confident and authentic role models are more important than ever. Men, young and not so young, are exposed to influences (and indeed, influencers) 24/7, and it is time to curate the content they consume to include the many accomplishments and strengths of dads with disabilities.

Boys with disabilities may well be wondering if their parenting dreams might be a possibility in the future. And, it’s hard to be what you can’t see.