Cathy Brown


I was asked to write a blog to reflect on some of the successes I’ve had while I was here — a kind of fare thee well to Paraquad and my position.

For the few folks who will read this (Hi, mom and dad!), I want to share a little secret with you: It wasn’t me. The only thing I’m good at — really good at — is being in proximity to people who are amazing and doing amazing things.

For example, one of the things I get congratulated for is the passage of Rep. Kevin Engler‘s bill that finally increased asset limits for people with disabilities who access Medicaid. My friends and colleagues — and many legislators — fought hard for that much-needed change to ensure that people with disabilities can keep a bit of their own money to meet their financial obligations and become a little less reliant on government programs and charity.

My public policy team manager, Kim Lackey, (see some of her awesome blogs here, here and here) drafted language, wrote policy briefs and kept everyone up to date on the legislation. My community organizers, Chris Worth and Derek Wetherell, (see some of their writing here, here and here) connected with people with disabilities who use Medicaid so they could tell legislators how important it was for them. And then, of course, many, many, many other disability-related organizations made it a priority and took similar action.

Paraquad hosted a tour for Missouri freshman legislators — twice. We hosted an event for then-Sen. Eric Schmitt when he passed Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) legislation and hosted current state Treasurer Schmitt when he rolled it out. Former Gov. Jay Nixon visited Paraquad to sign the bill that increased asset limits.

Mayoral candidates, gubernatorial candidates and many state and local legislators visited. Rules for Metro Call-A-Ride were changed. An inaccessible McDonald’s was torn down. Missouri hosted two Cross-Disability Policy Summits.  A disability-specific issues questionnaire was sent to all the statewide office candidates (and some even filled it out)!

St. Louis came within striking distance of being the first city in the nation to ban the practice of paying people with disabilities sub-minimum wage.  The public policy and advocacy team at Paraquad, with our partners in the community, did all that.  I happened to be the director of public policy and advocacy during that time.

Now, sometimes you win, and sometimes you learn. I’ll take complete credit for the learning. Our work endured some hard-fought losses.

Paraquad suffered four — yes four — different funding stream reductions this past legislative session. People with disabilities lost access to services. We tried and tried to increase access to Medicaid for people with disabilities who work through legislation that enhanced the Medicaid Buy-In for workers with disabilities. We just couldn’t make the case stronger than the high fiscal note.

I know those efforts will continue with or without me because there remains a strong team of people who are dedicated, resourceful, whip-smart and beyond all else have a passion for advancing the disability rights movement.

If that is the kind of team you want to work with, I encourage you to apply for my old job. I didn’t write the job description. Our human resources department wouldn’t allow that. If I had my way, it would have also said:

  • Must be able to fit in with scrappy grassroots radicals, then quickly compose yourself to meet the governor.
  • Must be clear that you don’t know anything, unless you have a disability, about the experiences of people with disabilities. Listen to them, follow their lead and amplify their voice when you can.
  • Must be in search of a great boss who prioritizes advocacy to a high degree, expects excellence and gives you the latitude to lead.
  • Must love politics the way some people in St. Louis love the other “real” sports.
  • Must not need to be “the person” but be satisfied with being part of collaborative efforts.
  • Must be a disability rights advocate.

You can find the real job description here.

Lead on!

Cathy Brown
(Soon-to-be former) Director of Public Policy and Advocacy at Paraquad

Cathy Brown is the Director of Public Policy and Advocacy at Paraquad. She can be reached at or on Twitter at @Cathy__Brown.

4 comments on “Cathy Brown on Public Policy Successes at Paraquad”

  1. 1
    Beth on July 5, 2017

    Sounds like you learned a lot and had excellent people around you-and I’d bet those people feel the same about you. Congratulations on some hard fought battles. Paraquad is a wonderful organization.

  2. 2
    Roxana Shaffe on July 7, 2017

    You left out that you mentored many new public policy advocates and presented an excellent professional example for us to follow. I learned skills alongside you that I use daily.

  3. 3
    David Francis on July 7, 2017

    I certainly will miss working with you Cathy! You were great at what you did there, it’s ok to take some credit. Without you I’d never have gotten into advocating before legislators. Keep me updated on what you’re up to next!

  4. 4
    Aimee Wehmeier on July 7, 2017

    Cathy, I learned so much from you. Thank you for always keeping it real. You are a rock star!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *