Because Brakefields started during the height of the COVID pandemic, the vast majority of our research and customer discovery was conducted virtually. Allie Schmidt was the very first person we got to meet with in person to talk about what it’s like getting dressed with a disability. We hit it off right away, and she has now become a staple in our focus group and a great friend. We always love talking fashion with Allie, but equally as exciting has been watching her own brand,Disability Dame, grow and impact so many. On top of being a fantastic mom to her son, Asher, and wife to her husband, Charlie, she runs a site dedicated to parenting with a disability and connects her audience to various supports, products, and life hacks. She has even recently expanded into consulting with brands to help create more inclusive products across a range of industries. Read on for more of Allie’s story…
In as much or as little detail as you would like to share, what is your disability and how has life changed since its onset?
I have motor neuron disease which the doctors think is a very rare form of ALS that just stays in my arms. Basically, that means that my arms are paralyzed. This brings many challenges because most of our lives are set up to use our arms, so I have to use my legs and feet as my arms. When I knew my arms were becoming paralyzed I started trying to go each day without using them so I could see what kinds of obstacles I would encounter. It was really difficult to master it all. Every day I have to try to think of any challenges that I might run into when I’m out in public and try to work around these before they happen.
What prompted you to start Disability Dame?
When I was pregnant I started looking online for resources for disabled parenting and I could not find anything. This was astounding! There was definitely a need in the market that wasn’t being filled. There are so many women with chronic illnesses or disabilities that don’t have any resources to help them.
How has it felt to connect with other disabled parents and the community that you’ve built?
It has been amazing! It’s been so nice for so many women to reach out to me and connect and just give me so much positive feedback. And that’s what I feel like really keeps me going. Anytime I receive a message that says, “Thank you for posting this,” or someone has additional questions, that’s a really cool thing. I mean, it makes me feel like I’m on the right route of actually helping people. And that’s the entire reason I started- to help people!
How progressed was your disability when you were meeting Charlie? At what point did you talk to him about it all?
Oh, man. When I first met him, no one could tell that anything was happening to me; I looked like every other person. The only reason that he knew is because he stalked me on the internet and found my blog that chronicled my story. I would say it was probably three months in when we sat down to really talk about it. He said that he didn’t care, he would love me anyways, and we would go through this together. I’m lucky that I have a super, super supportive husband. I don’t even know how I lucked out with him! He is 100% there for me all the time.
What is a common misconception that people have about parenting with a disability?
I think a lot of people don’t even understand how many parents with disabilities there are. But there are a lot of us! So I think the major misconception is that we are actually out here, and we can parent just like any other parent would, it’s just not going to look the exact same as what you’re going to be doing.
Any advice to other people starting a new business?
I would say if you’re passionate about it, do it! You’re not going to feel motivated to keep going every single day, but I think a huge part is creating a routine, and when you don’t feel motivated, just make sure to keep the routine going as much as possible.
Favorite thing in your bathroom cabinet: Benefit eyebrow gel- I didn’t realize I needed this, but that’s how all these girls are getting such good eyebrows!
What does self care look like for you: Definitely getting in my sauna. I’ve never shied away or felt guilty for self care and that just became amplified with my chronic illness. So yeah getting in my sauna, meditating, I’m really big on routines so I have a whole bedtime routine
What do you keep the thermostat on: 72 if not more. I’m cold all of the time! But I try to turn it down before guests arrive.
What did you think your life would look like when you were 15 and what do you think your 15 year old self would think about where you are now?
I definitely did not think I’d be living in Nashville. I was really into music and thought I was going to be out in LA doing something with music. I definitely didn’t think I would be disabled. And I didn’t think I would be having a family so soon. I don’t think I intended to have a family probably until I was into my 30s.
What do you want to be known for?
I want to be known for being genuine and just authentic. When I was trying to come up with my brand I messaged my friends and asked them to give me three adjectives that describe me. And each of them told me you just are who you are no matter what and I thought that was cool.
What’s your favorite thing you’ve ever worn and why?
I would say one is this white trench coat from H&M. It just looked so classy and so much better than when you’re thinking H&M. I used to get so many compliments on it, and no matter what, when I put that on I just felt like a million bucks. And I think the other thing would be an NBA jersey because I just feel like my most authentic self in good sports attire like that.