Article: Becoming a Mom on Wheels

This article was written by Marjorie Aunos, and originally appeared in the edition of DABC’s Transition magazine, Parenting with Disabilities (Spring 2023). Read the issue here.

If you’re interested in contributing to Transition as an individual or an organization, please email

Photo of Marjorie Aunos. She has medium-length wavy brown hair, dark glasses, and is sitting in her wheelchair outdoors.

January 5, 2012 was my birthday. Not my real birthday, but my second chance. On a country road, my car slid on black ice. It only took a few seconds. I became paraplegic when I sustained a Spinal Cord Injury at a T2 Level.

As a single parent, my last thought before impact was for my son Thomas, who was only 16 months old at the time.

I knew right away my life would no longer be as it was. I was scared I couldn’t be the mom I had dreamed of being.

But, I knew parenting with a disability was possible. I knew this because, as a psychologist, I had seen hundreds of moms and dads with an intellectual disability do it. The determination and love they had shown had inspired me to become a single mom by choice.

Surely, I thought, they could also inspire me to fight through every internalized ableist thought I had about my own parenting. Thoughts like, “If I can’t run after him, how can I bring him to the park?” “How can I be a mom if I can’t drive him to school or put him to bed or meet his teachers on parent-teacher night due to lack of accessibility?”

If I knew many moms with intellectual or developmental disabilities, I knew no one with a physical disability or mobility limitation who was a parent.

I had no mental images of how it could be done. I also had no idea how to parent at a distance, while I was six months in rehabilitation, and my son was being cared for by my parents.

My academic and professional knowledge of parenting with a disability also created a lot of insecurity. I knew the discrimination parents with intellectual disability face, the lack of inclusion and the over-representation in child welfare, often with a lack of evidence.

I knew I would need to advocate for myself as a parent, and for my child, at every stage of his development. My fears were validated eight months after my accident when the “Rocking the Cradle” report came out in the US. It looked at parenting with all kinds of disabilities and the disparities people face: poverty, lack of adapted housing, lack of resources and services that are accessible, negative and ableist attitudes towards their parenting, and sometimes custody battles and intimate partner violence.

To ensure I could be available for my son when he needed me, all the while learning about what my body could and could no longer do, we moved into a house with two apartments. My parents moved into one apartment so they could be nearby to help out.

For safety, my mom gave Thomas his baths, while I supervised and managed the whole endeavour. I would say, “Grandma, Thomas played in the sand today, so he needs us to shampoo his hair” and she would perform the task.

When he would wake up during the night, she would come down from her apartment, pick him up from his bed and hand him to me in mine. She would wait patiently while I cared for him. When he finally fell back to sleep, she picked him up from my arms and set him back into his bed.

As Thomas grew in physical autonomy, less and less co-parenting was needed. As I now parent a teenager, the support I require is what any other parent needs: strategies to deal with the rolling of the eyes!

Since I didn’t have another mom on wheels to learn from after my accident, I decided to write my stories. I wanted other women to see what it could look like.

I also produced an event called Amplifying Voices of Parents with Disabilities, so I could connect with other parents with disabilities. No matter if our disability is the same or different, seeing other parents with a “different” stance normalized my reality and experience.

Being part of a community of parents with disabilities has empowered me more than I can say. And, because finding services or supports in the community for parents with disabilities was hard to do while parenting a young child, I am working with some of my colleagues to ensure a resource guide will be available in the future. You can see a few of these resources on page 20.

I’ve now been using a wheelchair for eleven years. Eleven years of challenges and struggles, but mostly eleven years of happiness and memories. I am a mom on wheels and I am actively parenting my 12-year-old son.

Over this past decade, I have seen him grow into a beautiful young man who is kind, creative and social justice driven. He and I are the best team there is.

Some Statistics

In Canada, 12% of women report a functional limitation (Statistiques Canada, 2018).

In Québec, it is estimated that 4.8% of families with a child under the age of 18 has a parent with a disability (Mercerat et Saïas, 2020). In the United States, the estimate is 6.2% (NDC, 2012) which is generally considered a huge underestimation. A third have a physical limitation.

You can purchase the book, Mom on Wheels: The Power of Purpose as a Parent with Paraplegia, at

Marjorie Aunos, Ph.D. is a single-mother-by-choice living with a Spinal Cord Injury. She is a renowned Psychologist and Researcher in the field of Parenting with Disabilities and an Award-Winning Inspirational Speaker.

International Day of Persons with Disabilities 2022

In 1992, the UN designated December 3rd the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD). The observance of the Day “aims to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilize support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities.”[1]

DABC’s mission is to support people, with all disabilities, to live with dignity, independence and as equal and full participants in the community. We understand the importance of recognizing IDPD. We want to acknowledge that this year has been particularly emotionally charged for many Canadians with disabilities. As a number of Canadians with disabilities have turned to Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) due to a lack of financial/social supports and safe, affordable housing, organizations and individuals have continued to urge the government to make the Canada Disability Benefit a reality.

We celebrate the resilience and strength of people with disabilities, while striving for a world where our community doesn’t need to be quite so resilient in order to survive, let alone thrive.

To learn more about IDPD, visit:


September 30th is the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

DABC will be closed on Friday, September 30th in recognition of The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, or “Orange Shirt Day.”

From The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation:

The day is observed to “memorialize the children lost to the residential school system and honour Survivors, their families, and their communities.”

The day is also called Orange Shirt Day in reference to Phyllis (Jack) Webstad’s first experience of the residential school system: she had her brand new orange shirt taken from her the day she arrived at the Mission. Read Phyllis’ story in her own words on  

Canadians are encouraged to wear an orange shirt on this day to honour the survivors of residential schools, and those who never returned home. If you are purchasing an orange shirt, please try to buy from Indigenous designers and sellers. VanMag compiled a short list of such designers.

DABC is committed to the ongoing process of decolonization, and recognizes that we still, and will always, have things to learn and work to do. An important aspect of the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation is the phrase “truth before reconciliation.” Spreading the truth of previous and ongoing oppression in various forms towards Indigenous Peoples is one way that allies can contribute to this work. 

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s reports and Calls to Action are important reading:

If you would like to support and spread the word about Indigenous-led organizations that are doing great work to support Indigenous communities dealing with intergenerational trauma, these are two:

Indian Residential Schools Survivors’ Society:

Urban Native Youth Association:

We encourage our staff, volunteers, members and readers to take some time on the 30th to read the information at the above links/reflect on their learnings, and to consider attending a local event marking the day. The Vancouver Sun has compiled a list of events in the Lower Mainland.