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Emily Ladau

Disability rights activist, writer, and speaker

  • About Emily Ladau

    People with disabilities are the world’s largest minority, comprising 15% of the population. Yet when it comes to being an ally to the disability community, many people are unsure of how to act—or worse, they ignore disability entirely. Emily Ladau is here to change that, with practical guidance on how to become a better ally to disabled people.

    Ladau was born with Larsen syndrome, a genetic physical disability, and has been a lifelong disability advocate. Since she appeared on Sesame Street at ten years old, she has dedicated her career to furthering rights and accessibility for the disability community, providing consulting and editorial services for multiple disability-related organizations. She is the Digital Content and Community Manager for the Disability & Philanthropy Forum and co-host of The Accessible Stall podcast, and she previously served as the founding Editor in Chief of the Rooted in Rights blog.

    Demystifying Disability, Ladau’s first book, is a friendly handbook on crucial disability issues, including how to appreciate disability history and identity, recognize ableism, speak respectfully, ensure accessibility, and more. Her talks stem from her same knack for candid instruction, combined with her belief that storytelling is crucial to making the disability experience accessible to the world and creating a world that is accessible to the disability community.

    Emily Ladau’s writing has appeared in the New York Times, HuffPost, CNN, Self, Salon, Vice, The Daily BeastVariety, and Marie Claire Australia. In addition to Demystifying Disability, her work was also included in the Criptiques Anthology and About Us: Essays from the Disability Series of the New York Times. She has served as an expert source for outlets such as NPR, Vox, the Washington Post, and Teen Vogue, and has been featured in a range of press outlets including Newsday, BuzzFeed, CBS News, and U.S. News & World Report.

    Ladau is a native of Long Island, New York, where she graduated from Adelphi University. In 2017, she was named one of Adelphi’s 10 Under 10 Young Alumni. In 2018, she was selected for the American Association of People With Disabilities’ Paul G. Hearne Emerging Leader Award.

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  • Speaking Topics

    Nothing About Us Without Us: Including Disability History, Identity, and Culture in Social Justice

    Even informed advocates and allies can fall into the trap of speaking either for or over disabled people rather than centering their authentic stories and experiences. This presentation addresses ways those with disabilities have reclaimed their power after historically being excluded from advocacy efforts. Ladau explores with her audience how the implicit and explicit biases we hold can disempower the disability community, and reframes their thinking and actions to ensure their work uplifts intersectional disability perspectives.

    The Power of Advocacy Storytelling

    Feeling fired up and ready to make change happen, but not sure where to start? From posting on social media to rallying in the streets, there are lots of ways to convey your story with nuance and power. This presentation goes through a step-by-step storytelling process, highlighting strategies attendees can use to communicate their message and motivate their community.

    The Journey of a Disability Rights Activist: Embracing My Identity

    In this fireside chat-style conversation, Emily Ladau shares her journey to becoming a disability rights activist, including the many triumphs and tribulations along the way. She shares insights on her experiences as a disabled daughter of a disabled mother, and how in finding the disability community, she began to find herself.

    Creating a Culture of Inclusion: How to Be an Ally to the Disability Community

    This fireside chat-style conversation can be tailored for your company’s or organization’s specific needs in order to address how to be a thoughtful, informed ally to disabled people, including actionable steps for what to say and do (and what not to do), and how you can help make the world a more accessible, inclusive place.

  • Video

  • Praise for Emily Ladau

    Praise for Demystifying Disability

    Emily Ladau has done her homework, and Demystifying Disability is her candid, accessible cheat sheet for anyone who wants to thoughtfully join the conversation. A teacher who makes you forget you’re learning, Emily makes the intimidating approachable and the complicated clear. This book is a generous and needed gift.

    Rebekah Taussig, author of Sitting Pretty: The View from My Ordinary Resilient Disabled Body

    If being a good ally to disabled people is your goal . . . Ladau’s guide is a goldmine.

    Book Riot

    Activist and writer Emily Ladau is a responsible guide and advocate for change, and her book is one that everyone could benefit from reading.


    Emily Ladau provides a welcoming, easy-to-read guide to disability. I highly recommend this book to readers seeking to deepen their understanding of disability and ableism.

    Haben Girma, human rights lawyer, speaker, and author of Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law

    Demystifying Disability is both comprehensive in its scope and easy to understand. I can’t recommend this book enough.

    Eric Garcia, author of We’re Not Broken: Changing the Autism Conversation

    Demystifying Disability is a generous and approachable companion to the world of disability—especially for people who are (for the time being, at least) not disabled. I’ll be using it as a reference book for years to come.

    Ann Friedman, co-author of Big Friendship

    Emily Ladau has crafted an absolutely essential guide to understanding disability. In it, she dispels countless myths that surround the disabled experience, while providing practical tips for interacting with disabled people in healthier and more positive ways.

    Shane Burcaw, author of Laughing at My Nightmare

    Demystifying Disability is a powerful reminder that disability is a vast spectrum with a wide range of voices and experiences. Emily Ladau expertly addresses so many of the common issues and pitfalls (and how to learn from them) able-bodied people face when attempting to be supportive of the disability community. I am grateful for this book and Emily’s voice.

    Grace Bonney, author of In the Company of Women

    From general disability knowledge, to disability rights, to ableism, to what to say and what not to say, this book will provide everyone with more understanding and empathy (not pity!) about what it really means to be disabled and what non-disabled people can do to be better allies, friends, parents, and partners with the disability community.

    Amy Webb, author of the award-winning Charley and Emma picture book series

    Demystifying Disability is a great primer for anyone who wants to learn more about the largest minority in the world, and how to lead with accessibility at the forefront.

    Victor Calise, commissioner of the New York City Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities

    Demystifying Disability is a game-changer in so many ways. This book is long overdue and is a must read for both new and experienced allies.

    Chris Ulmer, founder of Special Books by Special Kids

    Emily Ladau is a once in a generation kind of writer and activist whose legacy can’t even be quantified. The world needs her. The world needs this book.

    Liz Plank, award-winning journalist and author of For the Love of Men

    This wonderfully accessible and intimate volume delivers a comprehensive review of the complicated topic of the disability experience. Everybody should read this book.

    Emily Perl Kingsley, writer for Sesame Street
  • Books by Emily Ladau

  • Media About Emily Ladau

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  • Emily Ladau travels from Long Island, New York

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