Introducing Emily Ladau –
Getting to Know You
- Your name: Emily Ladau
- What’s your connection with disability? I’m a proud disabled woman.
- Star Trek or Star Wars? So, I haven’t seen any of Star Trek; I’ve at least seen some of the Stars Wars movies but…not my favorite. I guess I pick Star Wars because in the new one, Rey is pretty awesome.
- If you could live in any other country for 2 years, where would you go? I’d say Israel because it was so incredibly lovely when I went there.
- What dish would your bring to our community picnic potluck? Easy question! My mom’s brownies. Or rather, her recipe that I’d bake.
Now That We’ve Been Introduced…
- What do you do: I’m a writer, communications consultant, speaker and disability rights activist. Kind of a stock answer, I know. Basically, everything I do can be summed up in two words: language and disability.
- How did you come to doing what you do? How has your career trajectory flowed? My first venture into advocacy happened through an extremely public platform: Sesame Street. I appeared on 7 episodes, essentially playing myself, but with a different last name. My role was to teach viewers about my life as a disabled person in a fun, friendly way. I suppose I can credit my time on Sesame Street as the launchpad for my career, but more to the point, I really discovered my career goals during college. Initially, I was studying to become a high school English teacher, but midway through college, I really began to come into my own in terms of embracing disability as an identity, so this led me to change paths. I took a leap of faith and left the teaching program, continued on to get my English degree, and then was chosen for an internship through the American Association of People with Disabilities. I finished that internship in August 2013, and have since been working fulltime in my niche field of disability communications.
- Where would you like to see yourself in 5 years? Wow, so, I’ll be 30 in five years. I can honestly say I hope to be doing exactly what I’m doing now – working in communications, writing, and speaking – on a higher level. And personally, I’d love to be completely settled in a relationship at that point in my life, but if there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that the future is never an exact science.
- Not to be morbid, but what do you want people to remember about you when you’ve gone? I hope to leave a legacy not only as someone who made the world more accessible to the disability community, but also as someone who made ideas and experiences surrounding disability more accessible to the world. But really, if I leave this earth knowing that I’ve had a positive impact or made a difference for even one person, that will be enough.
- Who or what inspires you? I look up to leaders in the disability rights movement, the ones who truly demonstrated that disability rights are civil rights. I deeply respect and admire Ed Roberts, Justin Dart, Jr., Judy Heumann…the list goes on. It’s my hope that these will become names as common as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. And most of all, my mom and dad inspire me to continue going. Always.
- If you could say something to yourself in the past – that is, the you that was really struggling with something related to disability – what would you say? I actually wrote a letter to my younger self a couple years ago. I wish I could reach through space and time to hand it to 15-year-old Emily, who was struggling mightily with body image and self-esteem, to let her know that her mind and body are so very worthy of love and respect exactly as she is.
- What do you like about your particular disability? I like – no, love, really – that it is a part of me/my identity that I share with my mom. My mom has the same disability as I do: a genetic joint and muscle disorder called Larsen syndrome.
- Any one thing that you wish people would *get* about disability? Oh, so many things! Since I have to narrow it down to one, the biggest thing I wish people would realize is that identity is deeply personal. I call myself a “disabled woman” because I consider disability to be as much a part of me as my other identities and attributes. Of course, it is not the only facet of my identity, nor is it the only thing I use to define myself. And as much as I embrace my disability as an identity, I respect that this isn’t the case for everyone. So really, please don’t tell someone how to identify. Let people choose for themselves.
- What single piece of technology makes your life easier? My power wheelchair. Without a doubt, the most valuable thing I own. It is my freedom.
My website: http://wordsiwheelby.com
My Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/WordsIWheelBy/
My Twitter: @emily_ladau
Meriah Nichols is a counselor. Solo mom to 3 (one with Down syndrome, one on the spectrum). Deaf, and neurodiverse herself, she’s a gardening nerd who loves cats, Star Trek, and takes her coffee hot and black.