On International Women's Day

On International Women’s Day, We Celebrate These Trailblazing Women with CP

March 8th is International Women’s Day and we, at the Foundation, are celebrating extra hard this year. For the first time ever, our staff is comprised of all women, from our Executive Director Rachel Byrne to social media associate Josephine Harrer. I, for one, am honored to have joined the Foundation’s all-female team to be a part of a revolutionary change in the world of cerebral palsy research and advocacy.

Way too often, women with disabilities are left out in the mainstream women’s empowerment and feminist movements. The narratives of women with disabilities are, either intentionally or unintentionally, excluded in those broader conversations. Even fictional portrayal of women with disabilities is way behind. There’s a minuscule number of disabled characters played by disabled actors in movies and TV shows, and out of that pool, the majority of characters are white and male.

Rather than dwelling on the negative, we want to give well-deserved recognition to women with CP who are trailblazing in their respective fields. Not only do these women have to combat sexist remarks in their workplaces, but also ableist stereotypes and misconceptions. They’ve achieved greatness not despite or their CP, but rather with it.

This list only represents a fragment of women with CP around the world excelling in the fields of medicine, law, athletics, entertainment, policy and advocacy, and so on. Each of these women is making a path for future women with CP and other disabilities to shatter their own glass ceiling. In an ideal society, women with disabilities would have the same opportunities and a fair chance at success as their nondisabled peers do. Nonetheless, we applaud these following women for all that they do, and we are honored to give them well-deserved recognition on International Women’s Day. 

Imani Barbarin

Imani runs the blog, Crutches & Spice, where she writes about disability culture and her life experiences as a Black woman with CP. She also works as the Director of Communications & Outreach at Disability Rights Pennsylvania and a public speaker. She holds a masters in global communications from the American University of Paris, and her work centers around the intersection of disability, race, and culture. Imani’s work has appeared in Forbes, NPR, Bustle, and National Disability Rights Network.

Maria Batalova

Maria is a Russian Olympic ice hockey player with CP. She plays for the Tornado Moscow Region and Russian National Team. In 2017, she participated in the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Championship.  

Dr. Janice Brunstrom-Hernandez

Known as Dr. Jan by her patients and family, Janice is a leading pediatric neurologist who focuses on treating children with CP and has CP herself. She is the director of 1 CP Place, PLLC. in Plano, Texas. In June 1998, Dr. Jan founded the Pediatric Neurology Cerebral Palsy Center at St. Louis Children’s Hospital (SLCH) and Washington University School of Medicine and directed the Center until 2014. In  2003, she founded the Carol and Paul Hatfield Cerebral Palsy Sports Rehabilitation Program at SLCH that includes Camp Independence, an intensive adapted summer sports program for children and adolescents with cerebral palsy. Dr. Jan’s contributions to the CP community are long-lasting, and she has more accomplishments than what can fit into one page! 

Hannah Dines

Hannah is a British T2 trike rider with CP who completed in the 2016 Rio Summer Paralympics. She started cycling in 2013 having done RaceRunning at World level prior to that.  When she’s not cycling, she’s a sports podcaster for BBC and a contributing writer at The Guardian. Hannah has written about sports, disability, women’s issues, and climate change.

Ila Eckhoff

Ila has been the director of derivative operations at BlackRock, an investment firm, and has over 30 years of experience in the financial services. She is on the board of directors at the Foundation and lives with CP. Ila has had an impressive career in business, a field that is not only ill-representative of women but people with disabilities as well. At BlackRock, she is responsible for Industry and Counterparty Management, representing Blackrock in industry forums and on advisory committees at SIFMA, ISDA, and IHS Markit. 

Diana Elizabeth Jordan

Diana is an award-winning actress, writer, producer, and director who has advocated for Hollywood to be more inclusive and representative of people with disabilities. Her CP affects her speech and gait but nevertheless appeared on over 40 shows and movies, including the classic 7th Heaven. Diana was the first actor with a disability to earn an MFA in acting from California State University Long Island in 2001. She also has her own arts production company called The Rainbow Butterfly Cafe.

Linda Mastandrea

Linda is a record-breaking, two-time track and field Paralympian with CP, making her one of the most decorated paralympic athletes in US history. She is now a civil rights and disability attorney in Chicago. Linda serves as the principal of a law firm that focuses on disabilities, civil law, and fighting discriminatory actions in housing, education, employment, and government services. Together with her sister Donna, she published the book, Sports and the Physically Challenged: An Encyclopedia of People, Events and Organizations. Linda was the first female Paralympian to be inducted into the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame.

Maria Town

Maria is the president and CEO of the American Association of People with Disabilities and lives with CP. She is forever changing the economic and political landscapes for people with disabilities. Previously, Maria has served as the Director of the City of Houston Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, the Senior Associate Director in the Obama White House Office of Public Engagement, and a policy advisor at the Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy.