Disability rights activist, writer, and speaker
Photo credit: Rick Guidotti, Positive Exposure
About Emily Ladau
Emily Ladau’s career began at the age of 10, when she appeared on several episodes of Sesame Street to educate children about her life with a physical disability. A native of Long Island, New York, Ladau graduated with a B.A. in English from Adelphi University in 2013 and now serves on their Board of Trustees. In 2017, she was named as one of Adelphi’s 10 Under 10 Young Alumni. In 2018, she was awarded the Paul G. Hearne Emerging Leader Award from the American Association of People with Disabilities. In 2022, the Jewish Federations of North America and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism honored her with their Disability Advocate of the Year Award, the New York City Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities honored her with the Frieda Zames Advocacy Award, and the The Viscardi Center honored her with the prestigious Henry Viscardi Achievement Award, which recognizes international leaders with disabilities. And in 2023, she was selected to receive the Progressive Women’s Voices IMPACT Award from the Women’s Media Center.
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.
Ladau is the Editor of Able News at The Viscardi Center, a monthly print and digital publication amplifying the perspectives of New York’s diverse, vibrant disability community and serving as a resource throughout the state. She is also the Digital Content Manager for the Disability & Philanthropy Forum, an organization committed to expanding philanthropic commitment to disability inclusion. Previously, she served as the Editor of The Century Foundation’s Voices of Disability Economic Justice project, a commentary series that shines a light on the economic disparities that disabled people experience. Prior to that, she served as the founding Editor in Chief of the Rooted in Rights blog, a platform dedicated to amplifying authentic narratives on the disability experience through an intersectional lens.
Ladau’s writing has been published in outlets including The New York Times, CNN, Vice, and HuffPost and she has served as a source for outlets including MSNBC, PBS NewsHour, NPR, and The Washington Post. She has spoken before numerous audiences about disability, from Microsoft to Comcast/NBCUniversal, and from the U.S. Department of Education to the United Nations. And, she co-hosts The Accessible Stall podcast, a show that dives into disability issues. Central to all of Ladau’s work is harnessing the power of storytelling as a tool to engage people in learning about disability.
Creating a Culture of Accessibility & Inclusion: How to Become an Ally to the Disability Community
In this fireside chat-style conversation, Emily Ladau engages with organizations of all sizes and across all industries about how they can help make the world more accessible and inclusive. Ladau talks about disability language and etiquette, as well as historic and ongoing discrimination against disabled people. She shares actionable steps for what to say and do (and what not to do), empowering audiences to practice informed and thoughtful allyship that centers the authentic stories and experiences of the disability community.
This session is also available as an in-depth interactive workshop, Demystifying Disability: What to Know, What to Say, and How to be an Ally.
As part of this workshop, Emily Ladau will engage with participants about:
• Disability history and identity
• Recognizing and avoiding ableism
• Appropriately thinking, talking, and asking about disability
• How to make accessibility standard practice for your organization
• How to meaningfully be an ally to the disability community
This workshop includes a recorded intro video for internal pre-event promo, as well as a helpful resource guide to share with your team.
How to Plan Accessible and Inclusive Events
In this session, Emily Ladau engages with event and meeting organizers about how to make accessibility and inclusion key components of event design, rather than afterthoughts. From ensuring that event marketing materials are accessible, to ensuring accessibility is implemented during an event, to following up and assessing accessibility post-event, Ladau gives important tips and guidance based on personal experience. She also addresses the accessibility benefits of embracing virtual or hybrid event formats, highlighting how these allow for more inclusive opportunities.
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.
Praise for Emily Ladau
I’m not sure I can express how grateful we were to have Emily join our Allyship, Etiquette and Inclusion discussion. Her experiences and knowledge combined, created such rich content and what we were able to touch on was extremely impactful.— LEGO
There was so much engagement with audience questions. And after the call employees raved: “That was amazing, I could listen to Emily talk all day”, “I loved this event! Emily is awesome”, and “So many great insights, I can’t wait to read her book.”— Citibank
We were so thrilled to have you join us this morning for “Expanding Perspectives”. This conversation was extremely important for our Nasdaq audience as they embark on their diversity and equity journey. As you know, disability is one of the largest identities, and yet often the least talked about. Given that, it was especially great to see our employees so engaged and active in the chat. We received over a dozen audience questions and had over 250 employees tune in to listen to the session. This was an amazing turnout. It seemed like our employees really wanted to talk about the subject, and you gave them such a welcoming attitude, and a great platform to do so. We are incredibly grateful for your time, experience and authenticity. We hope to have you back at Nasdaq soon.— Nasdaq
The openness and honesty of the presenter was extremely valuable, which in turn created an environment of trust where we could engage, ask questions, and dive deep.— Attendee
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.— BookPage
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
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY NPR
“Whether you have a disability, or you are non-disabled, Demystifying Disability is a MUST READ. Emily Ladau is a wise spirit who thinks deeply and writes exquisitely.”—Judy Heumann, international disability rights advocate and author of Being Heumann