Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Update on DC Women's Disability Policy Brainstorm

As mentioned previously on this blog, on October 16, a number of DC-area policy workers and I met at the Institute for Educational Leadership (IEL). This gathering was coordinated by Becca Cokley of IEL and Anne Sommers of the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), and was intended as an initial starting point among mostly younger women with disabilities who work in disability policy fields in the DC area. We also did have an intern present from the National Association of the Deaf. The meeting was scheduled on something of a short notice, but we were happy to set up some kind of starting point. The main outcome of this meeting so far has been a will to do some homework and then meet again next month. The group is open to any interested women who are interested in policy work affecting women with disabilities, and to get the relevant emails, contact Becca at cokleyr (at)

Before I go into what was discussed at this meeting, I'd like to say that in my travels, I think that people in different places have a strong awareness of what is available locally, but there is often a perception that not much is being done for women with disabilities nationwide because there's sometimes a lack of or breakdown in outreach or communication at a national level. That being the case, it's been good to share resources and get people in the loop on the activities going on around the country. And there ARE some really great programs out there that people should know more about.

So here are some notes on the DC meeting, based on Becca Cokley's minutes (thank you Becca!):

In attendance: Amber Smock, Anne Sommers (AAPD), Rebecca Cokley (IEL), Deb Cotter (National Council on Independent Living), Day Al-Mohammed (American Psychological Association), Erika Hagensen (ARC/UCP Disability Policy Collaboration), Kristin Long, Christine Griffin (EEOC), Peggy Prosser (NAD).

What is needed?
...Need more information on what is out there across the country
...Resource: Center for Research on Women with Disabilities (CROWD)-Texas
...Resource: University of Buffalo has info on Deaf women’s issues
...Resource: Rural Institute on Disability in Montana (Rosemary Hughes)
...Need to get established [nondisability] women’s groups to also focus on this issue [of women with disabilities and Deaf women]
...Including domestic violence groups
...NOW is an example [some years ago, NOW partnered with disability advocates for a conference on women with disabilities....outcomes?]
...Need more research on deaf women’s needs
...Doctors need better info on treating women with disabilities
...Need companies to look at disability when looking at their diversity initiatives
...Need to get more women with disabilities leading national disability groups [there are several Deaf women leaders with the National Association of the Deaf]
...Need a National Women with Disabilities Law Center

...How to weave a disability & Deaf agenda into generic women’s organizations? (NARAL, NOW, Planned Parenthood)
...How to weave a focus on women with disabilities policy issues into our own organizations? (NCIL, disability-specific organizations, etc)
...How to integrate women with disabilities/Deaf women's policy issues into medical schools and schools that train health care professionals?
...Finding the intersection in agendas [as in an action agenda or policy agenda]

What would it take to make an agenda?
...Informal network
...Workshops at national conferences
...Need representation of disability groups, awareness also of including LGBT groups
...An examination into what others are currently doing
...NCIL Women’s Caucus (set one up!)
...Connecting with medical schools
...Value proposition for organizations
...Work with disabled medical student groups
...Have activist women with disabilities join different groups
...Survey of women with disabilities

Important Issues
...Accessible exam tables/medical interfaces
...Employment for Deaf people and people with disabilities
...Access to statistics---get a break down by gender, break down by disability, partner with disability rights monitoring groups
...Women (teenage and younger) needing mentors (youth development and leadership)
...Rape and abuse
...HIV/AIDS prevention/protection
...Crime Victims with Disabilities Act needs women’s focus
...Support and parenting
...Discrimination at fertility clinics, adoption process, child custody
...SSI Marriage Penalty
...Group Homes

We then brainstormed a few women we know doing international work, especially in regards to the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities and also the Committee to Eliminate Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). In addition, we also thought of some organizations doing good work that we would like to know more about, such as Communities Against Rape and Abuse (CARA) in Seattle, which has a Disability Pride Project.

The group gave themselves a bit of homework...who doesn't love homework? For example, finding what the value added is for our organizations to dig into these issues, doing some asset mapping for the next meeting, thinking about what we want for women in the DC/MD/VA area, setting up a listserv, having more focused conversations.

I believe the group has already been exchanging a few emails, so we look forward to what's next blasting out of our nation's capital! Again, the group is looking to create a stronger network on these issues, so if you are interested, again please contact Becca.


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