Disabled in Development Project Storyteller #8: Emily Ladau

The biggest gap in organizational commitments to disability inclusion continues to be a lack of inclusive hiring.

Color photo of Ladau, a youthful white woman, sitting and smiling

Photo courtesy of Emily Ladau


Multi-colored hexagonsCurrently, it seems a lot of organizations are beginning to recognize disability as an area for funding, but it’s time to move beyond a charity perspective.


Name or Anonymous:
Emily Ladau
Please share how you prefer to introduce yourself:
I’m a disability rights activist, writer, speaker, and digital communications consultant whose career began at the age of 10, when I appeared on several episodes of Sesame Street to educate children about life with a physical disability.
My writing has been published in outlets including The New York Times, SELF, Salon, Vice, and HuffPost and I have served as a source for outlets including NPR, Vox, and Washington Post. I have spoken before numerous audiences across the United States, ranging from lectures at universities to conference keynote presentations.
At the core of my work is a focus on disability identity, sharing our stories, and harnessing the powers of communication and social media as tools for people to become engaged in disability and social justice issues. More about my work can be found on my website, Words I Wheel By.

Your pronouns are:
she/her
Current Job Title(s) and Organization(s) (if applicable):
I am the Editor in Chief of the Rooted in Rights Blog, a platform dedicated to amplifying authentic narratives on the disability experience through an intersectional lens. I also provide consultation and editorial services and manage online presence and communications strategies for multiple disability-related organizations and initiatives. And, I co-host “The Accessible Stall Podcast,” a show that dives into disability issues.
Years in philanthropy on both the fund-seeking and fund-giving sides:
5
Number of years in the workforce prior to 2007, when there was a surge into social media?
0
Number of years in the workforce prior to 1990, when the ADA was passed?
0
Number of years in the workforce prior to 1977, when the federal Section 504 regulations were signed?
0
Have you held any positions that make funding decisions and/or sets funding priorities?
No
Are you currently opening identifying as disabled, managing a chronic illness, and/or dealing with aging issues in your workplace or with contracting companies, or in volunteer roles?
Yes  

Multi-colored hexagonsIn order to truly recognize disability issues and the ways in which disability intersects with all other identities, it’s crucial to have disabled people in prominent seats at the table.


Do you have any colleagues on your team or in your organization who identify as disabled/chronically ill/aging?
Yes
Do any of the funding decision-makers who are your peers, or who you report to, identify as disabled/chronically ill/aging?
Yes
Have you had any ongoing connections with other disabled/chronically ill/aging philanthropy professionals where you can support each other?
Yes
Have you felt it was difficult to build strong relationships with peer colleagues, superiors, donors because of communication barriers?
No
Have you ever been provided with professional development, mentorship, and/or leadership training programs where you didn’t have to provide informal programmatic and/or physical access advising?
Yes
Have you ever experienced what you consider significant secondary stress, anxiety, and/or fear about meeting professional expectations because of disability/chronic illness/aging-related barriers and/or stigma?
Yes

Multi-colored hexagonsI’m privileged in that I found ways to turn my disability into a significant asset that informs my career.


Have you ever left a position because of disability/chronic illness/aging-related barriers and/or policies made continuing in the position untenable?
No
Have you ever been told in a work performance-related conversation with a superior that your presence is an inspiration to others, and/or that your presence in the workplace is itself remarkable?
No
Have you ever been physically touched, grabbed, patted on the head, had your assistive equipment handled without your consent by a peer, superior, or donor in a work environment?
No
Have you ever struggled to participate in team-building exercises, workplace wellness programs, or other initiatives that were optional but not understood as presenting access barriers?
No
Have you belonged to any other employee resource groups (ERGs), affinity groups for disabled/chronically ill/aging people? Any for other groups (parents, LGBT, etc.) where you found support?
No
Can you describe any gaps you’ve seen between commitments to disability inclusion in principle versus practice?
The biggest gap in organizational commitments to disability inclusion continues to be a lack of inclusive hiring.
Currently, it seems a lot of organizations are beginning to recognize disability as an area for funding, but it’s time to move beyond a charity perspective. In order to truly recognize disability issues and the ways in which disability intersects with all other identities, it’s crucial to have disabled people in prominent seats at the table. 
In what ways has your experience with disability, chronic illness, and/or aging been helpful/a hindrance to your work and advancement?
I’m privileged in that I found ways to turn my disability into a significant asset that informs my career. All the work I do connects with disability issues and allows me to live by my values of advancing meaningful inclusion and equity for the disability community.
That said, part of the reason I landed on this particular path is that attitudes, ableism, and inaccessibility hindered my initial career goal of becoming a high school English teacher.
If you could give just one piece of advice to your younger self about being a disabled person in philanthropy, what would it be?
You absolutely can play a key role in the process of educating people about disability and the importance of funding disability-related work. Your experiences as a disabled person have value.

THANK YOU, EMILY!


Multi-colored hexagons

Each Monday the Disabled in Development Project (DiD) features one disabled, chronically ill and/or aging Storyteller who shares their experience in advancing disability equity in philanthropy and fundraising.

DiD’s community development goal is to make philanthropy more effective and thus more powerful by centering more disabled people from multiply-marginalized communities. DiD Storytellers educate funders about ableism, celebrate advances in disability inclusion, and testify to the ableist structural barriers they’ve encountered, and that may have halted their career advancement or forced them out.

All Storytellers self-select questions to answer from an extensive list. All Storytellers are modestly compensated for providing their expertise on how to move disability inclusion from principle to practice in philanthropy and fundraising.

If you’d like to become a Storyteller or Field Ally, contact DiD Founder and Director Ingrid Tischer at ingrid@talesfromthecrip.org. Tell your truth about our disabled labor to transform philanthropy!

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