Making the vote more accessible

By Steph Ryde

The right to vote has always been something that I have taken for granted. As a non-disabled, white, cis woman I have never had an issue requesting or casting my ballot.  So I admit that I was shocked and surprised as I researched disabled access to the vote: how is it that in 2016, 137 polling places were reported as having an impediment restricting people with disabilities from voting?

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Chairs’ Corner: An activist to-do list for working women

Dear Members,

As we turn our focus to “Women and the Economy” this month, we recognize the contributions and achievements of all working women: not just women working in the paid labor force, but also women doing unpaid work that plays a vital, if undervalued, role in our economy.

We also recognize the challenges facing working women and commit to doing our part to address them. Following are 4 things you can do this month to support working women, whether their workplace is the home or the C-suite:

  1. Attend our October 16 meeting on Women and the Economy. Led by WC members Jihann Pedersen and Wen-Wen Lindroth, this event will explore the benefits of women’s full participation in the economy. Guest speaker Mitesh Sheth will discuss his successful strategy for closing the gender pay gap at his investment firm, highlighting the importance of diversity, inclusivity and sustainable work culture. We’ll close the meeting with an overview of setbacks to working women under the Trump administration and what we can do to fight back. RSVP now for this can’t-miss event!
  2. Join the “Activists Who Lunch.” Back by popular demand, our next “Activists Who Lunch” meeting will be held October 25 in central London. These lunch-hour meetings bring our members together to discuss politics, current events and activist activities in an informal setting. The brainchild of WC founder Carol Moore, these daytime gatherings are intended to make the WC more inclusive of moms and other members who may be unable to make our evening events. To RSVP for our next lunch on October 25, please send an email to events@womenscaucus.co.uk.
  3. Support the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). The erosion of protections for working women under the Trump administration has underlined the importance of the ERA, which would write gender equality into the Constitution. If Dems manage to flip just one seat in Virginia’s House of Delegates in the November 5 state elections, Virginia could become the 38th state to ratify the ERA, paving the way for the amendment to become law. Having written hundreds of postcards to Virginia voters in partnership with our Global Women’s Caucus colleagues and VAratifyERA, now is the time to start making calls and sending texts. To join VAratifyERA’s phone banking and texting campaign, click here. To learn more about the ERA and why it matters, watch this fun and informative clip from Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.
  4. Support the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. Earlier this week, Elizabeth Warren was in the news because a conservative publication “proved” her story about being fired for getting pregnant while she was a teacher was untrue — because the school didn’t write, “Fired for getting pregnant” in its records. But as we all know, this is exactly how pregnancy discrimination works. Call on your representative to co-sponsor H.R. 2694, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, and help put an end to discrimination against pregnant workers.

On behalf of the DAUK Women’s Caucus, thanks for helping us do the hard work of democracy, on top of your regular work, wherever your place of work may be. Hope you’re all having a great fall and we look forward to seeing you at an event in the very near future!

Best wishes,

Meghan, Steph and Eva   

Financial Literacy: Tips from our members

It has been well documented that women’s financial literacy is on average lower than mens. Alongside on average making less money than men, having longer employment gaps, and traditionally feminine skills being systematically de-valued, this gap in financial literacy –understanding and education around personal finances and money management – significantly contributes to gender-based financial inequity. A consequence of social conditioning, this exacerbates differentially gendered behaviours associated with risk, security and plain old financial know-how. We asked the Women’s Caucus – what are your top tips for improving your financial literacy or taking control of your personal finances?

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Planned Parenthood cuts through the noise: Takeaways from our September Webinar

by Courtney Plummer and Sadie Kempner

 Last month we participated in a riveting webinar with Jenny Lawson, Vice President of Organizing, Engagement, and Campaigns at Planned Parenthood Action Fund & Planned Parenthood Votes. Here is what we learned from Jenny, leading into the 2020 elections.

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Chair’s Corner – September 2019

On the heels of Labor Day, we recognize the contributions of working women and men to our nation, economy and way of life. And we commit to getting back to work: not just because the summer holidays are over, but because democracy takes work — and it’s up to all of us to keep at it.

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Caught in the Act: How the WC is making a difference — and how you can too

Here in the UK and back home in the States, summer days were hardly lazy for the Women’s Caucus! Find out what our members have been up to and how you, too, can get caught in the act(ivism)!

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Review: Strangers in Their Own Land

By Steph Ryde

Last month, the DAUK Women’s Caucus Book Club met in the Waterstones Cafe in Piccadilly to discuss Arlie Russell Hochschild’s Strangers in Their Own Land

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Chair’s Corner – August 2019

As some of you may know, I am from El Paso and still in shock from the recent events. When my boyfriend told me that there was a shooting there and to call my family right away, I hesitated. A shooting? In El Paso? Texas? Really? What?!

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What’s Your Form of Activism?

How do you start becoming politically active?  Women’s Caucus Members share their journeys and invite you to share yours!

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Be a Humanitarian: Notice Your Privilege with Social GGGRRAAACCCEEESSS

Be a Humanitarian

Tips by Laura Donohue

No, my cat didn’t just roll around on my keyboard (although he does do that sometimes). It’s a real acronym and it’s packed with information! 

Social GGGRRAAACCCEEESSS is a shorthand way to recognize the diversity and difference that exists in our lives. Each letter stands for a different aspect of our identity. Some of these identities can be visible or invisible. To be competent, socially aware, and sensitive activists, it’s imperative that we take into account the impact that our identity can have on others, and vice versa.

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Amazing American Women

In honor of Independence Day last month, we asked you to tell us about American women who inspire you. You came back to us with some truly amazing ladies who’ve made their mark on everything from government and civil rights to medicine and sports. Is this your first time hearing some of these names? Don’t worry, you’re not alone — when we discussed them at our July social, many of us were shocked by how few we’d heard of before. Clearly, American “her-story” still has a long way to go. But there’s no question that the stories of our foremothers deserve to be told and celebrated, and we hope you’ll enjoy learning about these homegrown Wonder Women as much as we did!

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Chair’s Corner – July 2019

Happy Fourth of July! The weather has been lovely from the start of July which makes outdoor picnics and bbqs a perfect way to celebrate our nation’s independence. 

It is also a great time to reflect on the present state of our country and if the actions of our government are in line with our values as citizens of the United States.

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Amazing American Women Picnic

Join us at our July 2017 Social Meeting where we’ll be having a picnic at Hyde Park at 6:30 pm.

We’ll provide a few drinks and snacks; share the solidarity by also bringing more to mingle with fellow members. Remember to also bring a blanket and most importantly your favorite American Woman!

What do we mean?

July is the month where we celebrate our nation’s independence, a time to remember what our forefathers fought for, but what about our foremothers?

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Women: Missing in Action from the 4th of July Speech

By Carol Graham

Carol Graham gives an honest critique of the President’s 4th of July speech and how women, particularly women in the military and Native Women, were excluded.

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Dr. Jennifer Merchant’s Talk: “The Criminalization of Women’s Bodies”

By Carol Moore

DAUKWC member Carol Moore gives a recap of the informative and thought provoking talk by Dr. Jennifer Merchant about how women’s rights are being impacted by the current political climate and how we can become active in ensuring those rights are preserved.

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Member Spotlight: Sadie Kempner

We recently appointed two members to be Co-chairs of the Communications Committee for the Women’s Caucus. We chatted with one of the new Communications Co-Chairs, Sadie, about about her feminist role models, why she joined the Women’s Caucus and what she always brings back from the US. Here’s what she had to say.

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Why We Must Keep Talking About Sexual and Reproductive Justice in Pride Month

by Sadie Kempner 

The DAUK Women’s Caucus are passionately committed to the sexual and reproductive rights under attack from the present administration. If you’ve been reading the news or screaming into the void that is social media, you’ll know how important these rights are for straight cisgender women. But straight cisgender women are by no means the only group whose reproductive rights are on the line here. The LGBTQ+ community also faces alarming sexual and reproductive injustice and needs to be part of the conversation. 

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The Heartbeat Bill and Why It Matters

by Courtney Plummer 

A ‘heartbeat bill’ proposes to ban all abortions once a doctor can detect a ‘heartbeat’ in the womb.  This detection usually happens around six weeks of pregnancy, before many women realize they are pregnant. The heartbeat bill has gained considerable momentum in the US as conservative state legislatures are trying to challenge the issue with the Supreme Court and ultimately secure a reversal of Roe V. Wade.  Many state legislatures have passed this bill and are also introducing a ‘trigger bill’, a bill that would automatically ban abortion once federal law is reversed.  

Here is a current but not complete round-up of where the heartbeat bill stands in various states at the time of publication. 

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Our WC Members Activism Back at Home

WC Leader Sylvia Squire is in the states doing an amazing difference back home. She shared with us as she’d love for you to read what she’s up to! If you are back home and being democratically active let us know as well at comms@womenscaucus.co.uk.

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Top Tips for Greener Living

Little choices we make every day can make a big difference for the planet. Here our members share what they do, tips and ideas for reducing waste, lowering carbon footprint and staying informed about environmental issues. Have your own ideas for helping the planet? We’d love to hear about them in the comments and/or Instagram Challenge.

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Renew, reuse, recycle: A look back at environmental learnings

If 2018 was the year of the Blue Wave, 2019 is the year of the Green Wave, with the environment topping the list of progressive voter concerns as it becomes a defining issue for Democratic lawmakers.

At our meeting later this month, we’ll be taking a look at the Green New Deal and other ideas and policies that have emerged in both the public and private sector to address climate change, protect the environment and ensure a sustainable future. But in the meantime — and in the spirit of recycling — it’s worth taking a look back at some of our rich and thought-provoking resources from last year, when Women’s Caucus members turned out in record numbers to learn, share experiences and take action on the environment.

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Member Spotlight: Abigail Smith

In honor of Earth Day, WC member Abigail Smith will be leading our April 29 meeting on the environment. This month we chatted with her about why she’s a Democrat, what she’s reading and what she always brings back from the US. Here’s what she had to say.

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Chairs’ Corner: In Like A Lioness

With the start of Women’s History Month, March has come in like a lioness at the Women’s Caucus — but shows no signs of going out like a lamb!

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Stacey Abrams Wants You to Help Put Up a ‘Fair Fight’

The indomitable Stacey Abrams made London a stop on her crusade to end voter suppression last week, calling on US citizens abroad to help her put up a ‘Fair Fight’.

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Member Spotlight: Wen-Wen Lindroth

Our new Member Spotlight series celebrates the diverse and dedicated members of the Women’s Caucus! This month we chatted with Wen-Wen Lindroth, an investment strategist and mom who just might run for president one day.

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Solving Four Centuries of Institutional Racism in Twenty-Eight Days

by Ariadne Schulz

Each February, during Black History Month, my black friends report getting the same, cringeworthy question: “When’s White History Month?”

The answer to that question is that every month is White History Month — because part of institutional racism is erasure.

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ICYMI: The Transformation of the Asian-American Vote

by Wen-Wen Lindroth

Last month, WC member Wen-Wen Lindroth and the DAUK Policy Network & Resolutions Committee organized a fascinating event on shifts in Asian-American identity and voting patterns with Prof. Catherine Liu.

On Monday, March 25th, Dr. Catherine Liu, Professor of Film and Media Studies at UC Irvine, spoke to DAUK about the evolution and current state of the Asian American electorate. Hosted by the PNR identities policy group, Prof. Liu presented her forthcoming paper: “Class AND Race: Asian Americans by the Numbers: The Political Transformation of an American Demographic.”

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Say Yes to Asking for Consent: A Terrace House Story

by Laura Donahue

Whether if it’s to give someone a hug, kiss, or simply if you can pet their cat, asking for consent is always important. A lot of people worry it’ll ruin the moment or that it’s unattractive. But you know what’s worse? Crossing someone’s boundaries and making them feel like crap.

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Fifty Shades of Feminism

Feminism — it’s a word that both unites and divides; inspires and instigates. It’s an ideology that some embrace, some reject and others are still trying on for size. It’s something that’s meant different things to different people at different times, so we wanted to know: what does feminism mean to you? Here’s our members had to say:

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It’s still our ERA!

by Carol Moore

Last month, Virginia came close to becoming the 38th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which would guarantee gender equality under the law. Disappointingly (if unsurprisingly), four Republican legislators stopped a bill, approved in Virginia’s State Senate, from passing out of committee to a vote on the House floor.  

In addition, bills have been introduced in 11 of the 13 state legislatures that have not yet ratified the ERA.

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The March That Meant Much More

bJoining the Women’s March, held in London on January 19, was more than an exciting experience. It signified the coming together of diverse voices seeking the same progress and I count myself fortunate to be a part of this movement.

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DNC Chair Tom Perez Praises D.A. for Record Overseas Turnout in Midterms

by Meghan Feeks

‘When we have unity of purpose, that’s how we win’

In an upbeat address in London last week, Democratic National Committee(DNC) Chairman Tom Perez saluted Democrats Abroad for mobilizing record numbers of overseas votersin the midterms, which saw a blue wave sweep the nation up and down the ballot.

But he also warned that “our democracy is still on fire,”and called upon overseas Democrats to continue being “first responders” in the fight for American values.

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Have You Heard About the Exciting News About the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA)?

CLICK HERE to add your support

IT’S BACK!!  VIRGINIA could be the state to get it over the finish line.

by Shari Temple – DA ERA Project Coordinator

For those of you who have not been following the progress of this amendment that failed to get through Congress in 1977, here’s a brief history: The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) is a proposed amendment to the United States Constitution designed to guarantee equal legal rights for all American citizens regardless of sex; it seeks to end the legal distinctions between men and women in terms of divorce, property, employment and other matters including equal rights to be heard in courts of justice.

From 1971 to 1977, the amendment received 35 of the necessary 38 state ratifications. With wide, bipartisan support (including that of both major political parties, both houses of Congress, and Presidents Nixon, Ford, and Carter) the ERA seemed destined for ratification until Phyllis Schafly mobilized conservative women in opposition, arguing that the ERA would disadvantage housewives and cause women to be drafted into the military.

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Let’s get smart about healthcare reform: A nurse’s prescription

By Elizabeth Crocker, RN, MSc

I’m betting the farm that all of us believe that we control our own destiny. But how do we control our healthcare — how we access it, use it and benefit from it?

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Feminist Takeover at Miss America

By Carol Graham

During the 1992 presidential campaign I was shocked by the vitriol aimed at Hillary Clinton by other women. But when she fought back speaking candidly (and somewhat testily) regarding her decision  to pursue a career instead of ‘baking cookies’, the defense strategy of the Clinton campaign managers was equally shocking. Read More

5 Ways to Join the Fight for Women’s Health

By Meghan Feeks

With the endless stream of bad news for women’s health and reproductive rights these days, it’s easy to feel like you accidentally stumbled onto the set of The Handmaid’s Tale. Read More

DA Spain Leads International Mobilization against Trump’s Immigration Policy

Milan, 9 June 2018

On 26 May, news broke out of the US on the Trump Administration’s unprecedented “zero tolerance” policy, inhumanely detaining and separating immigrant children from their parents at the US border, sparking a wave of protests in at least 30 cities across the North American continent.

International protests and petitions quickly followed suit. Groups in London, Spain, Denmark, France, Switzerland, and Germany took swift action in solidarity with this movement. Spain was home to the first protests with overseas American citizens, holding demonstrations on 27 May and 1 June in Plaça Catalunya, Barcelona. London’s protest at the US Embassy occurred in solidarity with the Families Belong Together sister marches in the states on June 30th. Read More

Being an LGBTQ+ ally starts with the choices we make every day

In a brightly lit classroom, we sat in groups of four clutching handwritten index cards in our hands. Having learned a few basic things about our partners — their names, where they were from and their favorite color, for example — we were asked to introduce them to the group, using the unusual grammatical rules printed on our cards.

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Women Who Run: Katie Hogan, Organizing for Action

By Meghan Feeks

Women are running for office in record numbers this year, but campaigns aren’t the only things they’re running. Fueled by outrage with the Trump Administration and passion for progressive issues, women are also leading grassroots efforts around the country (and world!) to mobilize voters, organize communities and advocate for causes they care about.

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Because of Her

This month’s theme is close to the heart of our Co-Chair, Kate Van Dermark. Let her tell you why. Read More

She Should Run: Winner of May’s Member Spotlight

Last month, we asked DAUK Women’s Caucus members to tell us about their favorite woman who is (or should be!) running for office in the United States. This month’s winning submission is… Read More

Stacey vs. Stacey: The GA Gubernatorial Primaries

Women’s Caucus member Alyssa Blachez gives us a detailed look at the Georgia Democratic Gubernatorial primaries featuring the two Staceys: Abrams and Evans. Now that Stacey Abrams has won the primary, this presentation can be used as a resource to learn more about why you should support her candidacy and vote Democratic in Georgia in November 2018!

Georgia Gubernatorial Primary: A close look at the two Staceys

When women win elections, women win

By Meghan Feeks

The past month has been huge for Democratic women. Primaries in 20 states and a runoff in Texas have advanced women to the general election throughout the country, bringing the total number of female Democratic nominees for Senate, House and governor to 106 as of June 13 (Republicans have nominated another 27).

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LGTBQ+ Pride Series: Jason Jones Reception

On March 24, the LGBTQ+ Caucus launched its first Pride Month Series, a sequence of events marking the anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising and celebrating Pride, with a reception hosting Jason Jones, an inspiring LGBTQ activist from Trinidad and Tobago. Jones recently won an historic court case against his national government to overturn two colonial-era anti-LGBTQ laws that have been used for centuries to oppress the LGBTQ community.

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11 ways U.S. expats can help rock the midterms

By Meghan Feeks

It ain’t easy being “blue” these days, but things are definitely looking up. Special and state elections have brought Democrats to power in key states, and the latest polls have Democrats holding a double-digit lead over Republicans for the 2018 midterms. Read More

Top 5 tips for being a good disability ally

By Steph Ryde


As allies, non-disabled individuals can use their privilege to amplify disabled people’s voices and activism. Becoming an ally can seem daunting and many people shy away from it as they are afraid of making a mistake. In truth, we all make mistakes as allies – holding yourself and others accountable when mistakes are pointed out to you is a crucial component of being an ally. To help you navigate the waters of ally-ship we have provided some tips to get you started.  

1. Be aware of your privilege.

Because society is designed to meet the needs of non-disabled people, there are many things that require more effort or thought for people with some kinds of disabilities for a wide range of reasons. Getting dressed, making lunch, using public transport, and communicating to others are all activities that for many people are dependent on energy and pain levels, degrees of mobility, or support from other people.  By being aware of your privilege and what you don’t have to do or think about on a daily basis you can start to consider what it would be like for someone without this privilege.

Try this. The next time you’re at an event be aware of how the activities that you engage in could be alienating to people with a range of disabilities and perhaps keeping them from being a part of the community.  Consider the spaces that you meet in and the activities that you do. Is there a way that these can be more inclusive? What about this space is disabling to people with a range of needs?

2. Don’t define people by their disabilities.

When speaking, mention the person first and only refer to the disability if necessary.  For example, instead of saying ‘my friend in a wheelchair, Chris, is coming to the party’ say ‘my friend Chris is coming to the party and she uses a wheelchair’ if that fact is relevant to preparations for the party, e.g. finding out if the venue is accessible.  Small changes in wording and phrasing can make a big difference when it comes to inclusivity.

3. Don’t label people with a disability as ‘inspiring’ just for living with their disability.  

Focus on the person and what they achieve as opposed to labelling them as inspiring for having a disability.  For example, my family friend Brian built a physiotherapy business from the ground up while raising two children and is one of the most kind and generous people I know.  He is inspiring because of who he not because is someone with quadriplegia.

4.  Don’t police people based on the facilities they do or don’t use or whether they use them consistently. 

Not all disabilities are visible.  Not all people who use a wheelchair need a wheelchair all the time. Some people who might not look disabled do need to use accessible bathrooms. Do not judge people for what they do or don’t use.

5. Practice accountability.  

What your impact is matters more than what your intention was.  Be aware of this and don’t be afraid to admit a mistake.  If you are working at being an ally you are likely to make mistakes from time to time.  When you receive feedback on errors take it onboard and use it to avoid making similar mistakes in the future.  

Being an ally doesn’t involve getting praise.  Being an ally is about using your privilege, your connections and your position to give others a platform.  It is not about you as the ally – it is about the people you are supporting. So do the rubbish jobs – hand out name badges, blow up balloons, be the driver so that you can set the people you are an ally for up for success. Being an ally may not always be easy.  When it gets tough avoid retreating back into privilege and lean into the discomfort. Being an ally can open up a new way of seeing the world.  It can open you up to new experiences and new friendships so don’t be afraid to get started.

Pregnant and disabled: ‘People are fighting battles every day’

As a sought-after teacher aide for children with severe spectrum disorders, my sister Katie was no stranger to disability. Having battled chronic Lyme disease as a young adult, she had first-hand experience with disabilities that helped her earn the trust of her students and the respect of her peers.

But nothing could have prepared her for the trials that would unfold when she suddenly became disabled again in 2015 — when she was nearly 7 months pregnant with her first child. Leaving work on a wintry evening, she slipped on ice in the parking lot and fell backwards on her head, sustaining a concussion that has led to a long-term disability.

Now a mother of two boys with a growing business as an at-home beauty consultant, Katie has learned to live with her disability, but her struggle still continues on many fronts. Here she shares her experience at the difficult intersection of disability and pregnancy, what makes her feel empowered as a disabled woman, and how non-disabled people can be supportive and accommodating allies.

– Meghan Feeks, Co-chair, DAUK Women’s Caucus

Katie with her two sons, Charles and Corbin.

What kind of disability do you have and how does it affect you? 

My disability is post concussion syndrome. This makes me feel slow to process information, and even sentences that are said to me. I often hear what is said in the beginning and end of a sentence, but it takes me a second to fill in the middle. My eyes don’t track as well as they used to. At my last eye exam, my ability to track left from right was less than 1%. My eyes are slow to adapt to changes in light, and I feel sick when I have too much visual stimulation. This makes driving and reading very difficult and I limit my screen time.

You were pregnant at the time you became disabled. Do you think this affected the diagnosis and management of your disability? 

I was 27 weeks pregnant when I had my accident. The hospital was sure to monitor my baby and sent me up to the maternity ward, but I was never physically checked for a concussion until I showed very obvious symptoms in the days to follow. Being pregnant, I could not have a CAT scan and even an MRI was not advised, but it was eventually determined that the risk was worth determining if there was any brain bleed.

I could not be prescribed most pain management drugs that would normally be given to a concussion patient. Even so, the doctor that worker’s comp assigned to my case still offered me drugs that are not known to be safe during pregnancy, and are known to be unsafe during breastfeeding. I refused to take them to protect my child. I wish I had known what I do now: to advocate for therapies that could have helped me, without the risk of drugs.

You had to take time off work due to your injury. This coincided with when you had your baby. Did this create complications? 

I had to use up all of the sick time I had saved for maternity leave, as the school where I was working does not offer any paid maternity leave whatsoever. The worker’s comp policy would only pay after all of my sick time was used up. Worker’s comp also argued that the time I was planning to take maternity leave should be unpaid, because it was time I would have been gone anyway. If I were a male, receiving worker’s comp with a new baby would never have been a problem.

Another complication arose when I got pregnant with my second child. While my case was still nowhere near settled, I felt the need to hide that I was pregnant. Like it would be held against me if they knew that I was expecting again. I didn’t want to be thought reckless or irresponsible. I feared they’d think, “If she can have another child, she can work.”

You were diagnosed with a longer-term disability around the time you had your first child. What was it like trying to manage your disability while adapting to motherhood?

Post concussion syndrome symptoms are often worse when a patient is sick or sleep deprived. New baby and sleep deprivation go hand-in-hand, so I was miserable. There were days that I had to put my crying baby on the bathroom floor just to know that he was safe while I threw up, or had to hold him close while I buried my face in a pillow in a dark room to cope with stabbing migraines.

I couldn’t drive, so depended on friends and family to bring us to my  many doctor’s appointments, and I couldn’t make it to the new mothers’ group at the local family center until my son was 3 months old. After that, I still couldn’t make it regularly, and wouldn’t drive at all after dark. I was isolated, not only as a new mother, but as a head injury patient, and shunned by my previous coworkers. I felt like I had done something wrong. I was made to feel like I was taking advantage, or had somehow wimped out on everyone.

What solution was reached in your worker’s comp case? What assistance was made available to you, and how helpful/unhelpful has it been to you as a mother of two?

I was given a small lump sum to carry me over to the Advanced Disability Retirement (ADR) that I was told would come easily to me. More recently, I was notified that my case was dismissed, and any hope of ADR was gone, because I was not performing a duty of my job when I slipped on ice. I was going to my car at the end of the work day, not monitoring recess.

Instead, I was given 2 years since receiving my lump sum to take advantage of vocational relocation. This is a service that helps disabled people to find a job that would accommodate their new limitations, with a similar pay grade as their pre-injury job. I tried to take advantage of this, but it was already very close to my deadline by the time I learned about it, and the requirements were too great for me to be able to follow through. I didn’t have the money to schedule all of the medical appointments I needed for paperwork and transportation was too costly and complicated. I was also discouraged by the types of jobs the service had in mind for disabled people. The jobs I kept hearing about were computer jobs to do from home. Can you imagine a mother of two young children, trying to focus on a screen for 40 hours a week, with a head injury? “Work from home!” they said.

What would have made these programs more accessible and helpful to you ?

These programs would have been more accessible if there was a kind of coach or counselor to check in and see if I was taking advantage of services available to me. How can they expect a head injury patient to keep track of so many details, do so much paperwork, and afford all of the appointments that have never once been reimbursed? I use a lot of organizational strategies, but it’s too much to manage when even grocery shopping feels like a challenge.

Based on your experience, what’s the biggest misconception that people have about disability, and what’s the most important thing you think we should know?

People are fighting battles everyday. They are fighting their bodies and minds, trying to get them to do their bidding. They are fighting greedy lawyers and policies that doom a person to fail. People are broken, and writhing in pain, where no one can see. People are not milking the system, they are trying to find a way to exist in a system that is not eager to help. Disability doesn’t always come with a brace or a bandage. Disability doesn’t mean dull. Disability is not being able to do what we used to do, or what we want to do, in the way that we once pictured, or in the way that others might.

As a woman living with a disability, what helps you feel empowered?

What makes me feel empowered? My spirituality. I always have somewhere to turn. It’s being a part of something bigger, no matter the circumstance. It’s also having something within that I can hold dear — or share if I choose to. 

Another thing that makes me feel empowered is when people come to me to help them with something I’m still good at. Need a meal? I got you. Need a costume? Need to primp? Need a lesson or a party planned? Need to talk about your kids troubling behavior? I can listen. 

What’s the best thing that non-disabled people can do to be an ally to someone with your disability?

Find out what accommodations can be made for someone, so that they can carry on with the life. Don’t shut people out. Most of all, believe someone, when they tell you they need something.

For more tips on how to be a good ally to people living with disability, click here.