Laura Mauldin is a sociologist and an associate professor of human development and family sciences and of women's, gender, and sexuality studies at the University of Connecticut.
A sociologist by training, Dr. Mauldin specialized in health and illness, disability studies, science and technology studies, and feminist scholarship. She brings a critical feminist lens to her projects. She frequently works in the context of deafness, chronic illness, and disability, and she studies the ways women, families, and underrepresented communities interact with the health care system (including Early Intervention) and gendered patterns of care work in families. She is a nationally certified American Sign Language interpreter.
Dr. Mauldin's writing about disability, ableism, and care has appeared in outlets including the Los Angeles Review of Books, the Baffler, and the American Prospect. She's currently working on a book, Care Nation, which investigates America's failure to provide meaningful support to disabled people and the resulting reliance on unpaid family caregivers, such as spouses.
Areas of Expertise (6)
Human Development and Family Sciences
Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies
Caregiving and Caregivers
City University of New York: Ph.D., Sociology
Gallaudet University: M.A., Deaf Studies
University of Texas at Austin: B.A., Linguistics
2024 National Fellow (professional)
The New America Fellows Program brings on thinkers whose work enhances the public conversation about the most pressing issues of our day.
Media Appearances (6)
Adaptive clothing opens up doors
The Day of New London print
Laura Mauldin, associate professor and disability scholar at the University of Connecticut, created a project Disability at Home, a website available at https://www.disabilityathome.org, in which she interviewed 44 spousal caregivers, and when possible their partners, who are ill or have disabilities, to document the ways in which people creatively and inventively make life accessible in the intimacy of their home. She said clothing items that snap down the side help people reach catheters more easily, and button up shirts help people who might not be able to lift their arms over their head.
Who’s going to care for the 53 million family caregivers in the US – with Professor Laura Mauldin, PhD
Creating a New Healthcare Podcast online
The topic this week is caregiving and caregivers – an issue that is so much larger, so much more devastating, and so much more in need of reform than most of us are aware. There are over 50 million family caregivers in the US, and they suffer financially, emotionally, psychologically and physically with negative consequences that persist for the rest of their lives. The solution, according to our expert guest, comes down to funding and policy: to provide the funding through Medicaid’s Long-term services and supports (LTSS) and remove the stringent requirements that grossly limit appropriate access to those funds.
After ‘losing my life’ caring for a sick partner, a professor examines the U.S. caregiver crisis
Stat News online
Laura Mauldin was immersed in Deaf culture from childhood — but she’s not deaf. She went to a school that happened to educate many deaf children, and so she grew up learning American Sign Language. That early experience was formative, and set her on a path to become a professor and writer in the field of disability studies.
Designing for Disability
Design Lab with Bon Ku online
Why do we hate disability? Why does design neglect disability? How do disabled people tap into their creativity to make the world accessible? Laura Mauldin is a writer, sociologist, and interdisciplinary scholar based in Brooklyn, NY. She's currently an associate professor at the University of Connecticut. Her research focuses broadly on disability, care, and technology.
Disability is Everyone's Problem
This Is Hell! Podcast online
Here to help us have a better understanding of the hacked life of the disabled, why hack life is necessary, and what it says about the shortcomings of accessibility for the disabled, writer, sociologist, and interdisciplinary scholar, Dr. Laura Mauldin is author of The Baffler magazine article, Care Tactics: Hacking an Ableist World.
Zip ties, plywood, and PVC tubes: how disabled people and caregivers are hacking their homes
Fast Company online
The pandemic threw up a barrier for the research of Laura Mauldin. A sociology professor at the University of Connecticut who studies disability and caregiving, she’d planned to visit the homes of people with disabilities to see the ways they set up their space for their particular needs. The pandemic put a halt to those visits. Though Mauldin could still peek into homes via video calls, many of the small details she could see in a real-life visit fell out of view in the virtual space. So, she started asking people to send photos.
The Invisible Frontline: Experiences of Spousal Caregivers During COVID-19Journal of Applied Gerontology
2023 Spousal caregivers are a largely invisible population of unpaid long-term care providers in the United States. This paper examines their experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic by drawing on data from 96 virtual and phone interviews with 44 spousal caregivers cohabitating with an ill partner across 22 states between June and December 2020. Findings show caregivers 1) adjusted care practices related to food and supply deliveries, socializing online, and infection control; 2) experienced impacts on care, including the loss of home health aides and reduced outpatient care; and 3) experienced emotional distress due to isolation, increased care demands, and resulting heightened anxiety and stress.
Crisis methods: Centering care in a precarious worldSSM-Qualitative Research in Health
2023 This article describes how I developed crisis methods as I undertook a research project on spousal caregiving during the height of COVID-19 in 2020. Informed by longstanding feminist methodological concerns related to reflexivity, the starting point is that we all always begin our work from our own experience. However, because of the topic or context, our experiences both past and present can complicate some projects more than in others. For example, heightened emotional complexity is often present in research exploring illness, disability, and care. The additional context of the pandemic, however, meant we were all undergoing a collective trauma simultaneously. As such, traditional modes of research suddenly demanded a more capacious questioning both of logistical and emotional norms in qualitative methodologies.
Parent-Child Grief Interactions: A Qualitative Analysis and Conceptual Framework of the Lived Experiences of Young Widowed ParentsOMEGA-Journal of Death and Dying
2023 A young parent’s death is an unexpected event that incurs family stress and grief for the surviving parent and young children. However, few studies have examined widowed parents’ grief experiences and parent-child interactions following a co-parent’s death. Guided by phenomenology, this qualitative study examined the lived experiences of (N = 12) surviving parents grieving the loss of their co-parent. Data were collected using semi-structured interviews and analyzed using an inductive analytic procedure. Findings included themes of (1) not showing grief with child; (2) talking through grief/emotions with child; (3) maintaining connection between deceased parent and child; (4) timing of sharing things with children; and (5) utilizing bereavement and group support.
Care TacticsThe Baffler
HERE IS WHAT DOESN’T GO VIRAL: Ángel worked as a housepainter for decades but had a stroke three years ago that paralyzed the left side of his body. Now, his favorite spot is the recliner in his living room. From his perch, he can reach some essential items that he stores on a table to his right: a power screwdriver, painter’s tape, and a clipboard with paper and pen. “I’d like to mount this new striker plate on the front door,” Ángel says. He transfers himself from the recliner to his wheelchair and leans over to pick up a small metal striker plate along with the roll of tape from the table. Using his right foot, he turns around and propels his wheelchair toward the front door. Then, he props the roll of tape between his knees in order to pull off a section. He sets the striker plate on the tape, pulls a little more while bracing it with his knees, and tears it off. Ángel wheels in closer to the frame and lifts the tape and striker plate onto the inside of the door jamb, pressing it into place. It stays there, mounted to the spot where he needs it.
Long COVID leaves newly disabled people facing old barriers – a sociologist explainsThe Conversation
Up to one-third of COVID-19 survivors will acquire the condition known as long or long-haul COVID-19. The American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation estimates that long COVID will add as many as 22 million individuals to the U.S. population of disabled people. I am a sociologist and researcher focusing on disability. I am aware of the challenges awaiting newly disabled people living with what scientists call post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection, a condition in which someone with COVID-19 continues to have symptoms for weeks or months after infection. One of those challenges is qualifying for Social Security Supplemental Income, the program that provides financial support to disabled people with limited resources.
The Care Crisis Isn’t What You ThinkThe American Prospect
On a recent visit with research participants for my book on spousal caregiving, I sat with a man who had a stroke three years ago, at age 59. He can only use one side of his body, rendering him unable to work; his wife serves as his caregiver. He told me about how much he hated himself. “All I do is take resources. I don’t contribute anything.” Tears streamed down his cheeks. President Biden’s signature Build Back Better bill, which includes funding for long-neglected social programs like Medicaid’s home and community-based services (HCBS), is facing an uncertain future. An upgraded HCBS program would allow millions of people currently stuck on wait lists to receive care at home, rather than in congregant settings. But facing questions from the likes of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) about cost, the new investments in HCBS may not become law.
They told me my name: Developing a Deaf identitySymbolic Interaction
2021 This article examines the process of deaf people coming to identify as culturally Deaf—a distinction typically made in the literature as an identity belonging to those who use sign language to communicate—and how this identity process co‐occurs with other social identities, namely sexuality and race. Through pairing Goffman's work with perspectives from Feminist Disability Studies, we extend the sociological literature on both identity and disability. To do so, we analyze qualitative data collected through narrative interviews with five Deaf, gay and lesbian individuals with different racial backgrounds. Our analysis surfaces deaf people's encounters with one another and how, relatedly, becoming Deaf is shaped by Goffman's concepts of affiliation and obtrusiveness.
Feeling Medicine: How the Pelvic Exam Shapes Medical Training by Kelly UndermanSocial Forces
2021 In Feeling Medicine, Kelly Underman charts the history of pelvic examination in medicine and explores the role of gynecological training associate (GTA) programs in medical education today. Underman effectively makes the case that changes in the pelvic exam exemplify larger changes in medical education. One such change is new licensing exam requirements that cover “professionalism,” a term meant to capture the behavior in interactions between physicians and patients, especially as it relates to emotional aspects. Underman uses the phrase “technologies of affect” to capture these transformations and advance theories of professional dominance after biomedicalization. Throughout, Underman also contributes to thinking in affect theory and biopolitics. This is a deeply researched tome.
Support MechanismReal Life Magazine
Helena learned how to change her husband’s suprapubic catheter by filming a home health aide on her iPhone. Normally, a nurse would come in weekly to change it, but she had to stop coming in because of a potential exposure to Covid-19. Out of caution, Helena (not her real name) found herself changing it by herself, with the sterile kits provided by the home health agency for the nurse. “Hopefully, it comes out very easily,” she says over video chat. “You can just tug it right out of his abdomen.” His level of care need would be classified as “truly skilled nursing care,” she says, which is often provided at special facilities that are meant to be equipped and staffed to handle complex medical needs 24 hours a day. But they could not find a satisfactory facility, and now “I’m the skilled nurse,” she says.