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Meet Rachel Kay

Updated: Jul 10, 2023

Q: What are your experiences with disabilities?

I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression twenty years ago. I realized that the stigma around mental health discourages many people from getting the help they need, so I started being very open with my own struggles.


I learned how disabilities affect students when my son entered pre-school. That put me into the confusing and overwhelming world of Independent Education Plans. I had to learn what schools were required to offer, what they could offer, and how to deal with the bureaucracy, all while getting my child proper care.


Q: What led you to disability advocacy?

Once I had my bearings, I wanted to help other parents be more informed when advocating for their children. So I joined the board of Watertown’s Special Education Parents Advisory Council (SEPAC) as the training coordinator. The SEPAC, a council required in all school districts, is composed of passionate parents who work with the Watertown Public School Administration to make our schools the best that they can be for all students.


The more I learned about the wide variety of disabilities people experience, the more I wanted to work toward inclusion for people across our full community. I looked at Watertown’s Commission on Disability, which is composed of extraordinary people (with and without disabilities) who work to make Watertown accessible beyond what the ADA requires. I was impressed, so I applied to be a member of the Commission and was appointed by the City Manager. The work is fulfilling and I am learning an amazing amount.


Q: How do you think Watertown is doing with accessibility?

Overall, I think we are making good progress.


The City is working on ensuring physical accessibility in public spaces such as schools and other buildings, streets and sidewalks, parks, and so on, especially as there is new construction or renovations.. It is also working on information accessibility, for example ensuring content on the Watertown website is accessible to people with visual impairments who use screen reading technology. There is a proposed ordinance now in committee to require closed captioning for TVs in public spaces such as restaurants or bars, for people who are hard of hearing.


The Commission on Disability is usually consulted on plans for parks and buildings. We also help residents work with the different city departments if needed. If you have an issue or an idea to make Watertown more accessible for all, please reach out!

Like everywhere else, we have a lot more work to do, but I see solid examples of how we are moving forward.


Q: What’s your favorite way to spend a lazy summer afternoon?

One of my greatest joys is to enjoy my back porch with a book and a glass of wine. I don’t get to do it often, so I really enjoy it when I do! Right now, I’m reading An Abundance of Katherines, by John Green.


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