"During this time we have been strengthening our role in improving maternity care for parents with disabilities. We have been doing this through collaborative partnerships with other organisations, such as Maternity Choices, Karinya House, and individual women with a disability," comments Dr Namira Williams, CEO of disAbility Maternity Care.
Maternity Choices is a national organisation dedicated to advocacy and improving maternity services for women in Australia. Karinya House, in the Australian Capital Territory, provides support and accommodation services for vulnerable women, including women with disabilities. Like disAbility Maternity Care, these organisations are committed to improving care for women and families, and in particular, those who are disadvantaged.
Last year also saw them establish the role of brand ambassador with Deaire Pecora. Deaire brings to this role her lived experience as a mother with a disability and a passion to see service delivery improve for parents with disabilities. Deaire has two young children and wished "an organisation such as disAbility Maternity Care was around when I had my first child. This would have made it so much easier for me".
Brilliant Online shared Deaire's story: Becoming pregnant with cerebral palsy in December 2021.
Changing the conversation for parents with disabilities
While many services have been affected by COVID over the last year, disAbility MaternityCare has used this time to build their Strategic Plan and goals, develop partnerships, services and education. Their vision is for parents with disabilities to be equal and empowered citizens.
"There is a lot of work to be done in this area, from increasing knowledge around disability for maternity providers, to changing social attitudes around parenting for people with disability," comments Namira. "Often there is a perception that people with a disability cannot parent. The challenges these parents face, are more about the lack of specific services and support, rather than not being able to do it. So, it’s about breaking down those barriers and changing the conversation for them."
disAbility Maternity Care provides a range of education, both online and, where possible, face-to-face. They also provide tailored workshops for specific organisations where possible. The education aims to increase knowledge of both health and disability service providers.
We asked Namira a few questions…
Why do you do what you do?
I am passionate about our society being inclusive of parents with disabilities. Readers can read part of my story here which contributes to this.
What is the best part of your job?
Knowing that you are making a difference, and working with others who are also passionate about this area.
How does your business help your local community?
As we are growing, we are building with a base of staff from the area and we are also committed to employing people with a disability where possible. So often, there is a lack of employment equity for people with disabilities, which is unfair and discriminating. For us, it’s about providing equal opportunity in many areas.
What are the plans for disAbility Maternity Care over the next 12 months?
To achieve our vision of parents with disabilities being equal and empowered citizens, we are working to achieve goals within our main strategic areas:
Connect parents with disabilities to services - our service section of DMC Support is currently being audited for NDIS registration. We will be offering Support Coordination and upskilling current Disability Support Workers.
Raise awareness of the issues, and Inform service providers and the conversation through undertaking specific research projects in partnership with key organisations. We currently have Ethics approval for a project that evaluates an education tool to change attitudes about parenting with an intellectual disability. We will begin our research next month. A second pilot project is being developed in another area, so stay tuned to find out more about these.
Educate, both service providers and parents/families about how to get the best outcomes for parents. We are currently developing a range of self-paced on-line education modules for service providers in this area which will be available in the next few months. This means that providers can access the modules and go through them at their own pace, increasing their knowledge in either the maternity care or disability area. We are also developing a range of videos for both providers and women. Our most recent one is 3 reasons to exercise in pregnancy. We also provide a range of free resources too.
Anyone who is interested in finding out about our free resources and updates can connect with us here.
Apart from work, what are your interests, hobbies?
Outside of work, family is my main interest. Having time with grandchildren, and also scrapbooking. This provides a creative outlet, but it’s great to look at photos of our family over the years.
How do you balance your work and family life?
Balancing family with work is always hard for any parent or caregiver. Being older has some benefits, in that it’s easier to prioritise the important things in life and let go of those that are less important. You can’t be everything to all people – it’s taken years to learn, but now I’m good with that.
Dr Namira Williams
Our vision is for parents with a disability to be equal and empowered citizens
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