Photo of three family members in a photo. In the front is a white young woman sitting in a wheelchair on the left. On the right, is a middle aged white woman in a wheelchair on the right. Behind the two women in a middle aged white man. All three have brown hair and are wearing glasses.

People We Love: Emily Ladau

We love bloggers here at the Disability Visibility Project. We’re big fans of blogger/writer/advocate Emily Ladau!

Check out a few excerpts of an article originally published in the New York Times on May 16, 2014.

One Daughter, One Mother, Two Wheelchairs and Nothing Remarkable

Emily Ladau

While exchanging pleasantries with a woman selling peanut brittle at an open-air market on Mother’s Day, my mom and I were told that we’re really adorable.

We were contemplating the samples we had just tasted and deciding which one of us would pay for a bag of the brittle to take home. Nothing about that scenario sounds particularly adorable, right? Apparently, though, it’s quite charming to watch a mother and daughter engage in mundane discussion about sugary treats when they happen to be sitting side by side in power wheelchairs.

The simple act of going out in public with my mom ensures that we will get comments like this regularly. Part of me does understand why people are compelled to make a fuss over us. My mom and I are quite the pair. We look alike, sound alike and act alike. In fact, we have nearly everything in common right down to our physical disability, Larsen syndrome, which is genetic. As such, people seem to perceive us as a bit of a phenomenon.

Complete strangers often remark that my mother appears to be my sister. My mom loves this, along with the shock people express when they learn that I’m her 22-year-old daughter. But beneath their amazed comments on my mother’s youthful appearance, I often pick up on a hint of incredulousness about a disabled mother raising a disabled child.

At the same time, without even knowing our full story, many people claim to be inspired by the sight of my mother and me, It’s rather paradoxical: On the one hand, most of society is quick to doubt that someone with a disability has the capability to be a good parent; on the other, because people think she is “Mom of the Year” simply because I’ve made it to adulthood.

My mom is a great mom. She has never given her role in my life anything less than 100 percent. She has always taught me to make things work, even when our disabilities pose frustrating complications, which tends to be the case on a regular basis. That being said, our goal has never been to be a sob story or a success story.

Our goal is to live our lives. Some people find us precious and others find us pitiable, but neither mode of thinking is accurate, and both feel condescending. Our disabilities may make our interactions different.

For the rest of the article:

Emily Ladau

Words I Wheel By blog:


Twitter: @emily_ladau

Image of a person's hand linking with another's. The text says: Let's be the help we need.

Media Partner #65: Jason’s Connection

Jason’s Connection is a free website connecting people with various needs to services, resources, and referrals including those for disabilities and mental health.

From their website:

We all have special needs. But for those of us with disabilities, finding the right resources to meet those needs – be it the right medical care, access to transportation, legal services or social support networks – can be a challenging and even isolating experience. Jason’s Connection is an online community that seeks to connect people to resources, and to each other, with listings, referrals and recommendations from peers who have found quality caregivers, services and experiences that meet the needs of people with disabilities, their families, and caregivers.




Icon in the shape of an eye with the eyeball in the shape of a globe. Text reads: Blind LGBT Pride International

Media Partner #64: Blind LGBT Pride International

It’s all about pride. Thank you to Blind LGBT Pride International for being our 64th media partner!

Blind LGBT Pride International is a proud special-interest affiliate of The American Council of the Blind.

The purpose of Blind LGBT Pride International (“Blind Pride” or “BPI”), a 501c(3) organization, is to offer advocacy, education, programs, alliances,and support for persons who are either blind or vision impaired  and who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.



Twitter: @blindprideintl

A black and white image of a group of people protesting in front of San Francisco's City Hall. Many are wheelchair users. One person's wheelchair has a sign that reads: "We shall overcome."

Guest blog post: Fighting Shame with History by Katie Murphy

The following blog post was originally posted on September 2, 2014 by Katie Murphy on the Longmore Institute on Disability blog. Below are a few excerpts.

Getting ready to start a new semester is a bit different for me. Like everyone else, I have to buy my books and readjust to a less nocturnal schedule. But, as a disabled student, I have the added preparation of having to work through a lifetime of internalized ableism at the beginning of each semester. You see, at the start of each term, I have to meet with my professors and explain to them my accommodations. And no matter how awesome and with it my professors are, requesting accommodations makes me a wee bit anxious. Before I even walk into office hours, I have to go to battle with all the awful ideas about disability that I’ve been exposed to since birth.

I have to engage in a little mental boxing match with self-doubt: “Do I really even need those accommodations? I could get by without them, right? I did before.” And guilt: “I’m wasting my professor’s time. They’re going to hate me. I’m such an inconvenience.” And shame: “A good student and a stronger person wouldn’t need all this stuff. I guess I don’t deserve any praise I get from my family about going to grad school. I guess I’ll have to give my Uncle Jimmy back that sweet card he sent me when I graduated from Berkeley. Oh my god, where did I put that card?Where did I put that card?

And I’m guessing a lot of other disabled students go through the same thing. (Minus the card from my Uncle Jimmy part.)

But we don’t have to. We really, really don’t have to.

And I think most of us know this. Intellectually, I know that accommodations are my right and I’m not getting some unfair advantage over everyone else. My accomplishments are my own, and I don’t need to torture myself by going without accommodations.

And yet…

Pure logic isn’t always the best tool for fighting feelings like self-doubt, guilt, or shame. Disabled people grow up learning to hate themselves, to hate their disability, because the world we live in hates disability for no logical reason. And sometimes the best way to fight that kind of illogic is with more illogic.

If I can’t completely get rid of that part of me that demands I feel bad for being a disabled student, I can at least trick it. “Hey ‘Part of Me That Demands I Feel Bad for Being a Disabled Student’! I don’t owe you any feel bads. Somebody else already felt bad on my behalf. My bill is paid. My debt is settled. You can stop leaving harassing voicemails.”

You see, in 1977, years before I was born, 150 disabled people occupied the old federal building in San Francisco to force the government to enact the first civil rights legislation for disabled people in US history. As I’ve learned going over interviews with some of the occupiers for the Longmore Institute’s Patient No More exhibit, one of the major motivations for occupying the building was the right for people with disabilities to get an education. Some of the sit-in participants went to segregated schools—separate schools for disabled children. Some were lucky enough to go to one of the few universities that admitted disabled students. They all sat-in so I could go to school and have the accommodations I need.

Just think: For twenty-six days, around 150 disabled people lived in a single floor of an office building. Only a handful were aware that they would be occupying the building at all, let alone for a month, so most participants didn’t have any bedding or a change of clothes with them. Many participants required attendant care for eating, using the bathroom, or preventing pressure sores. All of that care had to be improvised inside the building with everyone helping wherever and whoever they could. Some protesters had medicines that needed refrigeration, so a makeshift fridge was created with a window air conditioner and a plastic sheet. When the phone lines were cut, they communicated with the outside world by signing to people picketing in front of the building. Their struggle was supported by the Black Panthers, who made the protesters (including Black Panther Bradly Lomax and his attendant Chuck Jackson) two hot meals a day. When a bomb threat was called in, they didn’t leave the building. The protesters were in such close quarters with such limited opportunities for personal hygiene that many of them got crabs.


On top of all that, the building was completely inaccessible. The protestors were fighting for the implementation of the Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which made it illegal for entities receiving federal funding to discriminate on the basis of disability. Under Section 504, the very building the protestors were occupying would have to be made accessible to disabled people. Yet they stayed in this inaccessible building for nearly a month to demonstrate the need for disability rights legislation, showing the nation the strength of the disability community and its allies.

If you, like me, ever find yourself feeling guilty or ashamed about being a disabled student, doubting whether you really need or deserve accommodations, I encourage you to think back to the 504 protests. If you ever feel society tugging at you to “get by” without accommodations, “toughen up,” “suck it up,” “stick it out,” because “the whole world doesn’t cater to you,” remember that you are part of a community that has spent enough time living in an inaccessible world. If you feel tempted to do an ableist society’s work by torturing yourself for being disabled, remember that over a hundred protestors (and an infestation of crabs) stayed in a building for nearly a month without the comforts of home or any accommodations or accessible structures. Remember that all the discomfort and indignities they faced as protestors were so that you wouldn’t have to go through the same thing. You’re relieved of any duty to feel guilty or ashamed about being a disabled student.

For the entire blog post, go to:



Katie Murphy is a graduate student in Women and Gender Studies at San Francisco State University and student assistant at the Longmore Institute. She also runs Space Crip, a blog about disability in sci-fi/fantasy.


The Paul K. Longmore Institute on Disability expands its founder’s concept of social justice by hosting unlikely conversations to transform thinking about the human condition past and present.

Screen shot from the Longmore Institute website:

Under the leadership of Professor Catherine Kudlick, the Institute’s projects and events challenge prevailing notions that disability can only be a hopeless tragedy by showcasing disabled people’s strength, ingenuity, and originality. Drawing upon the vibrant Bay Area disability community, we promote new forms of teaching, scholarship, artistic creation, strategizing, and freewheeling conversation for disabled and nondisabled people alike.

Dark fabric with a quote printed on it in white: "Prejudice is a far greater problem than any impairment; discrimination is a bigger obstacle to overcome than any disability." --Paul K. Longmore

Contact information:

Paul K. Longmore Institute on Disability San Francisco State University 1600 Holloway Avenue San Francisco, CA 94132

Location: Humanities Building, Room 135

Phone: 415-405-352


Disability Remix blog:





Why I Am A Disability Activist by Avery Olmstead

The following video was created by Avery Olmstead and posted on YouTube on November 4, 2012.

For closed captions, click on the “CC” button on the lower-right side of the YouTube window once you play the video.

Hi, My name is Avery Olmstead. I’m 43 years old and I live in Old Town, Maine. I guess I’d call myself a “Librarian, Activist, Reader, Writer, Public Speaker, Actor, Dancer, TV Fan, Troublemaker, etc.” I also use a wheelchair, due to Cerebral Palsy. I created this video a couple of years ago after I was honored with the “Social Change” award at the 20th anniversary celebration of Maine’s UCEDD (University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities).

I have a BS in Rehabilitation Services from the University of Maine at Farmington and an MLIS in Library & Information Science from the University of South Carolina at Columbia (through distance education).

Soon, I will be finishing up a 2.5 year stint at a job I’ve really enjoyed. I’ve been working on a grant as an Academic Librarian through the Department of Disability and Human Development at the University of Illinois – Chicago.

In September, 2014, I began a year-long educational fellowship as part of the LEND (Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and other related Disabilities) program, through the University of Maine & the University of New Hampshire: ( LEND is a Maternal and Child Health workforce development program for graduate students and professionals aimed at improving the system of care for children with disabilities and their families.

Black and white image of a woman in a wheelchair, smiling with her mouth open looking upward. She has glasses and long hair and is wearing a sequined tank top

Media Partner #63: Dominika Bednarska, Berkeley, CA

Dominika Bednarska holds a PhD in English and Disability Studies from U.C. Berkeley. Her writing has appeared in many places including Sinister Wisdom, Bellevue Literary Review, Blast Furnace, and Nobody Passes: Rejecting the Rules of Gender and Conformity, a Lambda nominee. Her show My Body Love Story kicked off the National Queer Arts Festival in 2012 and is part of this year’s SF Fringe Festival in September.

For more information, go to

Image of a tree made of a figure of two outstretched hands as the trunk of the tree in brown. Other banshees are extending from the 2 hands with various green leaves.

Signs of Change Story Project

We love learning about other storytelling projects by the disability community at the Disability Visibility Project. Thank you to Cathy Waugh for telling us about Signs of Change.

From their website:

Positive changes in our mental health system have occurred over the last few decades as the stories of those treated in the mental health system were recognized. We have been able to understand the history of services from the people who lived it. From these stories we have learned what we need to change. As stories were shared we were able to see the strength and potential in the blurred lines between consumers, family members and providers. These stories have taught us the beauty and strength of cultures that may be different from our own.

Yet there is a cultural group in our mental health system whose stories have not yet been recognized. Individuals who are deaf and have a mental illness often remain invisible in our system of care and thus our ability to develop competent systems of care are limited. Signs of Change Story Project, LLC is dedicated to sharing the stories of these individuals with the hope that it will move us closer to a fully integrated and culturally competent system of care.

Signs of Change Story Project will donate a portion of any profits from the publication to the continued work of building awareness and meeting the needs of individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing.

If you are interested in submitting a story:

Story collection is occurring through December 1, 2014. You may submit multiple stories up until that deadline. Stories may be emailed after the date, but may be too late for printed inclusion.

Send questions to

Guest blog post: “The Power of Narrative: StoryCorps & The Disability Visibility Project” by Meriah Nichols

A blog post by Meriah Nichols post published October 16, 2014: “The Power of Narrative: StoryCorps & The Disability Visibility Project.”

The stories of minority groups are often told by others, others who may be allies and who want to empower the people within the group, but who are not actually wearing the shoe.

Within the disability community, stories are told strong and loud by parents through their blogs and articles, stories meant to be a part of the disability narrative, stories that are those of an ally that seeks justice, access and equal opportunity. Or other things like inspiration. Or they endeavor to show the value of their child, battle prejuidce and stereotypes.

As wonderful and needed as these stories are, they are not the stories of those who are wearing the shoes. They are the stories of those who have tried them on for a short time by virtue of walking next to a person who is wearing the shoes.

We need the personal narrative of a life lived with a disability. Allies will walk a million miles next to us and never know how it truly feels to wear our shoes. That’s the good in the shoe as well as the bad. It’s more than the apparent callouses and the blisters and the ache that the shoes may give us; it’s the intagible and inexplicable beauty of the lightness of the shoe as well. How softly it might tread, the richness of a blurred world that seems a dreamscape. Or it’s the perspective of seeing the world waist-high, the wind in your hair as you roll swiftly forward, feeling the power of nature at your back. It’s the lens that we with disabilities place over our experiences, because while disability is so many things, at its essence, it is a way of experiencing the world. It’s a way of seeing, hearing, feeling, touching, sensing, connecting, moving, thinking.

We need these stories, the stories of our lives, stories of our experiences. We need our personal narratives out there…If you have a disability, I can’t encourage you more to GO. Sign yourself up. Share your story. Get your voice – your review of your shoes – out there.

If you are an ally: of you are a parent, sister, friend, lover, child, auntie, boss or whomever to someone with a disability, please share the news of Story Corps and the Disability Visibility Project.

Help us get our voices heard.

We need our stories.

For the full blog post:

Meriah Nichols blogs about Deaf culture, Down Syndrome, travel and disability. Her blog, A Little Moxie, covers ‘stories related to one travel-hungry deaf mother finding her way through parenting three children, one with Down syndrome.’

Screen shot from A Little Moxie blog:

Meriah’s A Little Moxie blog:



Young white woman with long brown hair who is wearing a black dress. She is standing behind a display of rows of sneakers that are red, white and blue.

Media Partner #63: Maria Town, aka CP Shoes

We are delighted to have Maria Town as our 63rd media partner!

For so many people with disabilities, shoes are a BIG deal. They can be the bane of our existence, a key fashion accessory or an artifact that documents a disabled body’s function and existence.

Maria Town is the creator of the blog CP Shoes where she writes about fashion, design, and disability. Her motivation to start CP Shoes stems from her own almost life long quest for fashionable, durable, and affordable shoes as a person with cerebral palsy. When she is not capturing pictures of worn out shoes and writing witty commentary about them, Maria and her rapidly deteriorating shoes can be found wobbling down the halls of US Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy. At ODEP, her work focuses on issues related to youth with disabilities as they transition into the workforce. Maria’s portfolio includes creating career development opportunities in the classroom, developing leadership in young people with disabilities, and building opportunities for inclusive volunteerism. She has spoken at a variety of national and international venues on disability topics, including: the Society for Disability Studies, Mobility International USA professional Exchange in Jordan and the American Councils for International Education. Before coming to Washington DC, Maria worked for her alma mater Emory University in the Vice Provost’s Office of Community and Diversity. While a student at Emory University, she majored in Anthropology and served as the University-wide Student Government Association President. Maria hails from Louisiana, where her family still resides.

Check out this awesome tumblr showing all kinds of shoes worn by all kinds of disabled people


Twitter: @CP_Shoes

Screenshot from Stella Young's TED talk. Image of a small white woman with short red hair sitting in a wheelchair on a stage. The background is dark with blue lighting.

Stella Young, Inspiration Porn, and the Objectification of Disabled People

Stella Young describes herself on Twitter as a: “Writer. Comedian. Knitter. Crip. Inspiration boner killer.” She certainly kills it on stage and in her writing. We’ve been fans of her outspoken work from ABC Ramp Up and other publications for a long time. Inspiration porn isn’t something new among people with disabilities, but Stella breaks it down in an April 2014 TEDxSydney talk where she explains why she’s no one’s inspiration.

Here are some of our favorite excerpts:

Well, ladies and gentlemen, I’m afraid I’m going to disappoint you dramatically. I am not here to inspire you. I am here to tell you that we have been lied to about disability. Yeah, we’ve been sold the lie that disability is a Bad Thing, capital B, capital T. It’s a bad thing, and to live with a disability makes you exceptional. It’s not a bad thing, and it doesn’t make you exceptional.

And life as a disabled person is actually somewhat difficult. We do overcome some things. But the things that we’re overcoming are not the things that you think they are. They are not things to do with our bodies. I use the term “disabled people” quite deliberately, because I subscribe to what’s called the social model of disability, which tells us that we are more disabled by the society that we live in than by our bodies and our diagnoses.

So I have lived in this body a long time. I’m quite fond of it. It does the things that I need it to do, and I’ve learned to use it to the best of its capacity just as you have, and that’s the thing about those kids in those pictures as well. They’re not doing anything out of the ordinary. They are just using their bodies to the best of their capacity. So is it really fair to objectify them in the way that we do, to share those images? People, when they say, “You’re an inspiration,” they mean it as a compliment. And I know why it happens. It’s because of the lie, it’s because we’ve been sold this lie that disability makes you exceptional. And it honestly doesn’t.

Watch Stella’s talk:

Full transcript from Stella’s TED talk:

Stella Young is a comedian, disability advocate and Editor of ABC’s Ramp Up website.


Twitter: @stellajyoung


Read some of her recent work: