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Episode 4: What Disability Community?

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

GUEST: Tiffany Yu, Founder of DIVERSABILITY

When we think of disability, we often think of the literal definition, which is a medical issue that keeps a person from fully participating in daily activities. And when we think of disability community, we often think of the total population of all disabled people. However, a medical diagnosis does not automatically make anyone a member of the Disability Community. In today's episode, we explore this phenomenon.

QUICK LINKS

As language, perceptions and social mores change at a seemingly faster and faster rate, it is becoming increasingly difficult for communicators to figure out how to refer to people with disabilities. This style guide, developed by the National Center on Disability and Journalism at Arizona State University, is intended to help. It covers almost 200 words and terms commonly used when referring to disability.

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OUR GUEST: Tiffany Yu

Tiffany-Yu-2020

Tiffany Yu is the CEO & Founder of Diversability, an award-winning social enterprise to rebrand disability through the power of community; the Founder of the Awesome Foundation Disability Chapter, a monthly micro-grant for disability projects that has awarded $41.5k to 42 projects in 8 countries; and the host of TIFFANY & YU, the podcast. She was appointed to the San Francisco Mayor’s Disability Council by San Francisco Mayor London Breed in 2019.

Tiffany comes into this work based on her own personal experiences of acquiring a disability at a young age as a result of a car accident. She started her career in investment banking at Goldman Sachs, working on over $14 billion of announced transactions. She has also worked at Bloomberg, Sean Diddy Combs' REVOLT Media & TV, and a venture-backed real estate startup. She has been featured in Marie Claire, the Guardian, and Forbes and has spoken at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, TEDx, and Stanford University. She received her Bachelor's degree from Georgetown University and her Master's degree from the London School of Economics.

LEARN MORE:

https://www.tiffanyyu.com
https://www.tiffanyyu.com/podcast
https://mydiversability.com

 

TRANSCRIPT

Sarah Kirwan:

Hi, and welcome to Incluse This! This I'm your host, Sarah Kirwan. And this is a movement for disability equity. Today, we're talking with Tiffany Yu, and we're talking about the disability community. Tiffany is the CEO and Founder of Diversability, an award-winning social enterprise to rebrand disability through the power of community. She is also the Founder of the Awesome Foundation Disability Chapter, which is a monthly micro-grant for disability projects that has awarded $41,000 to 42 projects, in eight different countries. Tiffany is also the host of Tiffany and Yu, the Podcast. She was appointed to the San Francisco Mayor’s Disability Council, by San Francisco Mayor London Breed, in 2019.

Sarah Kirwan:

Tiffany comes into this work based on her own personal experiences of acquiring a disability at a young age, as a result of a car accident. She started her career in investment banking at Goldman Sachs, working on over $14 billion dollars of announced transactions. She has also worked at Bloomberg, Sean Diddy Combs Media and TV, and a venture-backed real estate start-up. She has been featured in Marie Claire, The Guardian, and Forbes. And, she has spoken at the Word Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos. She has also given talks at TEDx and Stanford University and she received her bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University along with her master’s degree from the London School of Economics.

Sarah Kirwan:

And with that, let’s dive into What Disability Community?

Sarah Kirwan:

Welcome to Incluse This!, Tiffany! I’m so excited to finally be here talking with you here today and answering the question that so many have – What Disability Community? So, you and I met by phone last year when I initially started planning this podcast. Since that time, the podcast has obviously undergone many edits, reschedules, and new launches dates, which you have been so flexible and I’m extremely grateful for. Despite those barriers, here we are today.

Sarah Kirwan:

As you know, I’ve researched, targeted, and hand-selected the guests for this podcast, in order to maintain the intent behind it, which is to provide this coalitional space where meaningful conversations can happen, shared experiences can be highlighted, and change has a chance to happen. I’ve seen the work that you’ve done and the work you continue doing to bring this community together, as well as bringing it disability to the forefront of the greater diversity conversation.

Sarah Kirwan:

When we think of disability, we often think of the literal definition of disability, right? Physical, mental, cognitive, or developmental condition that impairs, interferes with, or limits a person’s ability to engage in certain tasks or actions, or participate in daily activities and interactions. I don’t think I can even count the number of times I’ve had to fill out paperwork or have a doctor’s note speaking to my ability or lack thereof to fully participate in daily activities. However, does this automatically make me a member or a part of the disability community?

Sarah Kirwan:

Let’s start to answer that question with a couple of quotes from a great blog post written by Andrew Pulrang titled, What Defines Members of the Disability Community?; this connects us back to the original conversation we had with our guest, Molly Bloom, a couple of weeks about being disabled enough. Pulrang says, “If you have a physical or mental condition that you have to think about and plan around every day, then you are disabled.” He goes on to write, “But, if I have absorbed one thing over the last several years of disability blogging and immersion in online disability culture and activism, it’s that being one of the disabled population isn’t the same thing as being a part of the disabled community.”

Sarah Kirwan:

So Tiffany, we can use the words disability community to reference the total population of all disabil disabled people excuse me. We can use them to reference common characteristics of disabled people or their medical diagnosis. We can use them to describe a small group of disabled people who have a common viewpoint or opinion about something. What do we actually mean when we use the words disability community? Tiffany, can you please break this down for us.

Tiffany Yu:

I loved that entire intro. I mean that was so enlightening for me, so I think what I wanted to start with is the definition of disability, which you highlighted. And for me, the way I I phrase it is a condition of the body and mind that impacts how we go about living our daily life. Because I think that embedded within that definition of limiting, impairment, interfering, right? Those all have a certain type of connotation that many people who are disabled don’t necessarily feel an affinity with that, which is why there was a part of me that really wanted to add the word systemic somewhere in that definition, right? There are so many systemic factors that are limiting us, right, and if we take a look at the Social Model Theory of Disability, which says that disability exists as a result of our physical uh infrastructure and social attitudes towards disability. Like if we look at disability through the definition of the Social Model what we see is there are so many systemic factors that are what are limiting, impairing, and interfering with us being able to live our lives fully.

Tiffany Yu:

That was kind of point one. I think point number two is that I loved the way Andrew talked about how the the populating of people who are disabled, and the disability community are different. And I want to reference a piece that Professor Rosemarie Garland Thompson had written for the New York Times and

the piece, I believe, was called Becoming Disabled. And one of the things I talk about in my work is that I believe most disabled people have what I call two disability origin stories. The first is when we either acquire our disabilities or if they’re congenital you know that’s the first disability origin story is is consciousness around the diagnosis. Or or or when we initially have symptoms you know because sometimes even the diagnosis can take can take a long time.

Tiffany Yu:

The second is when we uh take ownership over our disability um and our disability story. So, I think that the difference between being part of the disabled population and being part of the disability community is rooted in getting from disability origin story number one to disability origin story number two. And to be honest, many people who have disabilities may never get to disability origin story number two.

Sarah Kirwan:

That’s one thing that we talk about within the Multiple Sclerosis community because a lot of people who appear to be nondisabled who are living with MS but don’t identify as having a disability or being disabled, which I actually think keeps them from accessing a very amazing community for support and this kind of kinship and understanding that you get with the disability community. The mission of your organization, Diversability, is to rebrand disability through the power of community. So, what definition of disability community do you and your staff members and volunteers use in your work?

 

Tiffany Yu:

That’s a great question. I like to keep the definition of disability broad and I like to leave space for people to self-identify as they see fit. One of the things that I’m learning is that the definition of disability actually changes depending on either who or what and by that I mean individuals or policies or government departments you know define disability. And so, the definition of disability is just so nuanced right? Because what it means to be disabled, to receive social security benefits, might be different or what it means to be covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act. So, I do want to highlight that there is nuance there.

Tiffany Yu:

And so, when I created Diversability, for me, it is we have this shared experience of what it feels like to be socially excluded. We have this shared experience of a label disability, which to some of us um or previously historically and systemically has meant something bad. And, when I talk about rebranding disability, it’s not necessarily changing the word disability to something different, but instead thinking when we hear that word disability, can we think of it in a neutral and empowering way, rather than and what I often tell people is, if you take anything away from this presentation, it is how much active un-learning we need to to not associate disability with bad. To not associate with broken. And not associate disability with less than. Which is why I think the definition of the word disability in itself right is limiting in itself.

Tiffany Yu:

So, um, that’s part of what we’re trying to do at Diversability, which is there has been research done that shows that your keys to longevity, happiness, your well-being, is rooted in having healthy relationships, in having positive um social connection, and for many of us who are disabled who aren’t able to find community, we get stuck in a cycle of feeling socially isolated and that lends itself to loneliness, which has all of these social health impacts, as well. Diversability. That was a very long-winded answer to say Diversability for us is we give people the space to self-identify as they see fit. But, what I want to acknowledge, as well, is Diversability is a space for people who are disabled and nondisabled. And the reason why I want to mention that is because I find at Diversability we want to meet people where they are.

Tiffany Yu:

So, what I mean by that is often times you know if I think about who our ideal community member is this is someone who may have just gotten their diagnosis you know doesn’t really have a community, or maybe have been disabled their whole life but similar to the conversation that you and Molly had, they don’t’ necessarily have consciousness over claiming their disability yet, or they don’t’ think they’re disabled enough.

Tiffany Yu:

How can we meet you where you are and as a result of interacting with our community members who are very proud of their disability identify. How can we encourage those who are disabled, but might not claim the identify yet, get to a point of feeling more empowered to talk about their disability or more empowered to claim ownership over it.

Tiffany Yu:

So, that to me is where I feel seeing that journey right if I talk about getting from disability origin story number one to two if I think about outside of that tag line that you mentioned, when I think about it at face level, my goal and my dream, is to get as many disabled people as I can from that origin story number one to origin story two so that we can start to redefine what it means to be disabled to our nondisabled counterparts.

Sarah Kirwan:

I love that. That was fantastic. And I think it’s so important because for someone like me it took me a long time, two diagnoses to get to a point of really owning disability as part of my identity. And this process that I’ve gone through to bring this podcast to life and launch my business. But, owning that piece of your identity is so important and I feel like for me, when I wasn’t owning that, I wasn’t living my true, authentic life, there was this piece of me that was left out of conversations or left out of you know anything that we would talk about. I wouldn’t bring that to the forefront.

Sarah Kirwan:

So, I love the shift from origin story one to origin story two. And I love how you talk about meeting people where they are because some people may join your group and not have disclosed, yet. And I also think that sometimes, you know, we get so far into our diagnosis and we start to forget some of those feelings that we had at the beginning; those conversations we have around disclosure.

Sarah Kirwan:

Let’s go back to the diversity within this group. And you’re bringing in disabled and non-disabled into Diversability, which I love. There’s just so much diversity within the disability community and it’s not just the physical, it’s also a social categorization that crosses all others, right? It crosses race, gender, religion, socio-economic status, and sexual orientation, among others. And, during one of my most recent staff training sessions, this staff member asked me, how can we be inclusive of the disability community, if we don’t understand who belongs to the disability community and we don’t know how or who is supposed to be included? What are your thoughts on that, Tiffany?

Tiffany Yu:

Mmmmmm…that’s the million dollar question, right? I mean I think that part of so part of why we’re called Diversability is not only number one we take pride in our disability identity, but we want to highlight how diverse the disability community is. Disability doesn’t just look like one thing and similar to you at the staff meeting, one of the things that I Have found is that often times when I share my disability story, so so one of my arms is paralyzed I will often have people come up to me afterward and they’ll say hey, I have ADHD, or I have diagnosed depression, or I have asthma, does that count? And I find that when, even when we’re asking ourselves the question does that count, the answer is probably yes, you know right, because now if you’re being part of this conversation you’re realizing Oh, the fact that I have dietary restrictions due to a health condition I have, uh, again restricts or limits like what I can or can’t eat, um.

Tiffany Yu:

I what we’re realizing and what I feel hopeful about is in the context of everything that’s happening around racial equity, there is now a more elevated consciousness around intersectionality right, and you talked exactly about the intersectionality that exists within disability but it’s hard to grapple with okay, you can be black and disabled, you can be a woman and disabled, you can be you can be five-years-old and disabled, or eighty-years-old, you know, you know you can have all of these other intersecting identities and still be disabled. What I find is what makes it difficult is because stigma and ableism is so pervasive in our society, and in our systems right, there are policies that are keeping certain disabled people in perpetual poverty. Because we have all of this just so embedded in our society, what ends up hap happening is that you have people who don’t quote unquote look disabled right because there may not necessarily be a physical manifestation of their disability not wanting to disclose or not seeing enough other people to mirror back to them that it’s okay to talk about your disability and be open about it. And this ends up kind of fueling into all different areas all different areas of our life, from employment to how we decide whether or not we want to get the services we need.

Tiffany Yu:

I even think about my own journey of going from story number one to story number two and the first couple of times I shared my story of how I became disabled, there was so much pain and grief in there, I I I was really hurt and you know and and very sad in sharing that story. I think that I it took me 12-years after I became disabled to even start to challenge my own internalized ableism that I had of what it meant to be disabled in this society right, and so if it took me 12-years and now I’ve been disabled for 23-years if it took me that long, I can only imagine uh how and again, the root of all of this is really is ableism and internalized ableism how long it might take other people and again, many people might not even get there because the stigma, discrimination, and bias are so deeply rooted in our society.

Sarah Kirwan

And there’s a lot of fear there for people with disclosure, you know, we’ve talked a lot about that in some of our self-help groups for Multiple sclerosis about disclosing when you’re dating, disclosing to get services, disclosing for employment. And the interesting thing is, and we talked about this on episode one, for someone who appears nondisabled, when you look at an employment application, you can really answer, do I have a disability or do I not? You can answer either way, is it based on a medical or is based on your identity? How you answer that probably is based on one of those two, right?

Tiffany Yu:

Fer sure. I I think a big part of it is a big part of it is also psychological safety, right? And it it’s heartbreaking to me that we have fear around being ourselves, right? And, and, I’ll say you know you know for for our queer friends I think I think for a long time and still, depending on which country you live in, there is retaliation, right? And one of the things I think a lot about is I I saw this on TikTok and someone asked someone asked a question why do you identify yourself as identity first versus person first as a disabled person, rather than a person with a disability. And, um, the way this person described it was, um, if I describe myself as person-first, person with a disability, it’s kind of like having a backpack and what I mean by that is you can leave your backpack in your seat at the restaurant, as you go to the bathroom or you can leave your backpack at home. So, the question is, can you leave your disability at home when you go out, right?

Tiffany Yu:

That was kind of like the imagery they uh they used when describing person-first language. With identity first language, I’m a disabled person, uh, it’s kind of like I would describe it like a jacket on a cold day. And, in order to move about the world, you need that jacket or at least in that environment. And I loved that imagery because my disability impacts how the world sees me and how I move about the world.

Tiffany Yu:

If I go to a buffet, those environments cause me anxiety because I want to make sure I can hold my plate and serve food, but that’s difficult if there’s not enough table space to put my plate down. And then if I try to balance it on my injured arm, I’m like nervous it’s going to fall and so in that particular environment, I can’t leave my backpack at home, right? I’m wearing my jacket in that particular scenario. So, when we think about these employment scenarios, that’s when I think it becomes hard right, because so much of how our external world has treated us as a disabled person influences the lens from which we move about the world, but in that particular scenario we we want it to the backpack when we wanna say well, am I disabled or am I not disabled because technically if I’m applying for that job, I feel like I’m totally capable and meet the qualifications to to produce the output that is expected of me.

Sarah Kirwan:

Wow. That. I love that imagery of a backpack. As you were talking, I just kept having this image of myself in situations where I’d take off the backpack, put the backpack back on. And that’s hard, it’s very emotionally exhausting, as well. Like you were saying, you have to have your jacket on, that is a necessity for you throughout your day-to-day dealings with the physical world around us, right? And, we think about employment, inclusion and employment, how do we get to that point where we say, okay well, with someone with MS it’s okay because one day they may have fatigue or symptoms may flare and they may need to be out for a couple of days, but they can work from home. And how do we kind of wrap our heads around that? The representation piece is huge.

Sarah Kirwan:

I was talking with a friend of mine the other day and she is looking for a position and she said I want to go to an organization that works strictly with people with disabilities. Because, as someone with a spinal cord injury, who uses a wheelchair, I want to be around other people with disabilities. So, I think that representation piece is so huge in our employment efforts because if you have an employee who maybe doesn’t see themselves represented within the company, are they going to apply to that company? Maybe not because maybe they don’t feel comfortable maybe they haven’t gotten to number two in that origin story or really want to own that and go into a place where it’s going to be uncomfortable and you’re educating and teaching and you’re the only one, right?

Sarah Kirwan:

With that, there are so many disability focused organizations and nonprofits that exist today. I mean I could name off hundreds. And each one of these focuses on a very specific disability. Like tinier smaller communities within the disability community. It’s difficult then for other people to understand what are we talking about when we use the words disability community? You know, is this something we as members of the disability community need to define outside of the medical diagnoses? Do we know how to talk with people about collaboration within the disability community to kind of bring those silos together? Can you talk about any work or a project you may be working on that closes some of those gaps between each of these smaller disability communities, within the larger disability community?

Tiffany Yu:

Sure, I mean there was so much there that I wanted to comment on. So, the first thing I’ll say is that I really love Talila Lewis or TL Lewis’ definition of ableism. And her definition of ableism is when society and people value and place worth on a person based on their body and/or mind. And I think in that conversation around worth, right, and thinking that we’re not worthy, depending on the situation is, is really again inherently rooted in ableism. So, when we think about employers, I I think we really need to do that uncomfortable work of self-analyzing is am I ableist? Hahaha. And, um, and I think that in all of this anti-racism work, many of us are confronting deeply held beliefs that we have either perpetuated by the media or things that we witnessed, that we didn’t actually realize until it came to the forefront.

Tiffany Yu:

So, often times what I tell people is that the same type of work that we do around how how we want to be more anti-racist, I hope we can do a similar level of self-reflection and self-work to really better understand what are the deeply rooted ableist beliefs that I hold around a person’s worth because of their body and/or mind. Um, so that was point number one.

Tiffany Yu:

Point number two around wanting to be represented. When I was working, so I started my career at Goldman Sachs and then I worked at Bloomberg after and part of the reason why I I wanted to work at Goldman was because I knew they had a disability employee resource group. And, while I was at Bloomberg I helped co-found Bloomberg’s disability employee resource group. And, uh, and of course these groups are for uh people with disabilities and allies or or other employees who might touch disability in one way or another. I think being able to have those spaces is is how we can figure out how we can better retain our employees with disabilities, right? Because we need to have those mirrors, we need to have spaces in the workplace where we can go and talk to other people about their experiences or how to best navigate or ask for accommodations if that’s needed.

Tiffany Yu:

And, if I think about why I started Diversability, I almost saw ourselves as the employee resource group for the for outside of the company we’re like the disability employee resource group for the world. Like the world is the company. Haha. You know? Um, and how can we create those spaces for us to come together and talk about that.

Tiffany Yu:

I think in response to your question around um large organizations that address a very specific disability, that is very needed. Part of the reason why I wanted Diversability to be cross-disability and pan-disability is that we’re so fragmented by our diagnoses. And, I think, exactly to how you started this conversation, people who do have disabilities uh, choose whether or not they want to be part of the community or not. And that makes it complex, right? Because if we’re not all aligned, of how we feel about disability, how are we supposed to create solidarity and movement forward, right? And I meet, so I meet a lot of people and I tell them about my work with Diversability and I want to create a movement around disability pride, or celebration of a disability identity. And I’ll meet disabled people who say, uh well, I don’t agree with that. I don’t see my disability as part of my identity.

Tiffany Yu:

In that case, even though I would I would consider them part of the disability population they are not my core community persona in Diversability, right? That’s why I I embrace this idea of meeting people where they are right? You know, the reason why our group is disabled and nondisabled is maybe you come in and you are disabled and you don’t identify or claim that identity yet, but as a function of meeting other people and seeing other people as either role models or I like to use the term possibilities models, and maybe you see a disabled person working in the corporate world really high up and really celebrates and takes ownership of their disabled identity. Maybe that’s the path you want to take and if you saw a person be able to be successful then maybe you might want to explore what it means to take ownership over your narrative. And meeting people where they are it’s this is what makes disability so exciting haha and an opportunity is because you have we have so many disabled people who don’t disclose and who don’t identify with the community. It does make it hard to uh to uh move things forward, but again, that highlights the diversity within the community.

Tiffany Yu:

I will say, one of the things I have heard. I think I saw DREDF. Someone was speaking from this organization and they’ve done a lot of really great work around legislation, disability legislation, and moving things forward from a policy perspective. And, I asked, I said, I run this organization that’s really all about celebrating the diversity that exists within the disability space. How can we ensure that we’re reflecting that in policy? And, what they told me was, this is why we need more solidarity in the disability community, because if there are cracks in the legislation that you’re putting forward or your ideal policy, it’s not going to get passed, right? And, and, I think about even 30-years after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, we’re still not able to recognize the economic empowerment of the of the entire community, right? And, we still have existing policies in place that make it legal to pay people below minimum wage, we still have policies in place and I believe it’s getting rolled out state-by-state, that say if you rely on disability benefits, you can only have $2000 in assets at any one point in time. Again, that’s changing with the passage of the Able Act, state-by-state. I think that again, um, if we’re still holding on to these legacy policies, which once upon a time made sense, but we’re seeing much more vocal disability advocates want to take action but we’re not able to create cross-disability or pan-disability solidarity, then it will take longer for us to achieve disability equity and justice.

Sarah Kirwan:

Yes. That was so well-stated. One of the things I wanna talk about was the solidarity in bringing legislation forward. So, when I worked at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, it was a very interesting experience. There were people within the organization who also lived with MS but did not disclose. Well, I was very much about disclosing, given what I had been through leading up to that time. So, I disclosed and I was all on board about how do we move forward efforts for people with MS. And the first barrier that I ran into was the fact that the MS Society didn’t cover the injectable medication that’s usually the first medication you get put on is injectable. This is why it’s so important for people with disabilities or even that specific disability, to have a seat at the table. And I’ve gone to DC and to Sacramento for MS policy and legislation and one of my questions is why we are not partnering with another organization that needs. ALS. Why don’t we partner with ALS so now we’re going to the federal government, to our congressmen and women, to say hey, here’s two organizations; we both need this policy. We’re not going to get anything passed, unless there’s some joined efforts, because we’re putting forth piecemeal legislative and policy efforts between these organizations. So, I do agree with you, I understand the need for them, I also feel like we could all benefit from much more collaboration between organizations to put forth legislation that improves everyone’s lives within the disability community.

Tiffany Yu:

One thousand percent. I think that this is something I see in other advocacy, other advocacy movements as well. There’s a lot of criticism of each other’s advocacy. I’ll I’ll say two points. There’s a lot of criticism of each other’s advocacy number one. Number two is I think because again systemically, we have been systemically limited, many of us still operate from a scarcity mindset and we want to transition over to an abundance mindset, right? Which is at the root of collaboration. You know, one plus one equals 15.

Tiffany Yu:

The reason why I bring this up is because I think that what I am realizing and there was something that I heard another disability advocate say a little while back and she said, now is the best time to be disabled. And I would argue that today as we’re recording this is the best time to be disabled. And, when this episode goes live, that will be the best time to be disabled. And the reason why I say that is because I think we’re starting to realize how much more powerful we are and how much more influence we have when we actually do collaborate.

Tiffany Yu:

And one of the things so, I know that when you and I originally chatted, we wanted to talk about some of the advocacy work that I’m doing as part of the San Francisco Mayor’s Disability Council and I remember when we had that conversation, I was like well, we haven’t really done that much. And, uh, we spent some time meeting earlier kind of reflecting on what our wins were from 2020 and I drafted up a letter to the Mayor about a year ago, asking if she could declare July as Disability Pride Month in San Francisco and if we could light City Hall in blue and white on the anniversary of the ADA and she did. Mayor London Breed did. I mean she signed proclamation and then the Board of Supervisors also declared July as Disability Pride Month in San Francisco and then we got City Hall lit, I mean that was a different office related to the Mayor’s office.

Tiffany Yu:

But, when I was talking to another friend about that, another disability advocate, he said Tiffany, don’t downplay what that did for the city. Because what you did even if you think it’s small, it may have enabled other people who saw that small action of just writing a letter to maybe write their own letter about some advocacy thing that maybe they care about, right? And so I think there are all of these trickle affects, every single action that all of us who are vocal within the disability advocacy movement are taking right now. Even you creating this podcast who knows who’s gonna listen and that may empower them to go off and want to do something else. So again, I think I’m catching myself saying Tiffany, like, you celebrate your achievements and what you’re able to do in the context of the power that you were able to have as being part of this Mayor’s Disability Council, right?

Tiffany Yu:

And I don’t think I would’ve been able to get that done had I not joined the council, right? And, and, I have a lot of things to say about the council and about how much more work we could be doing, but can’t I just celebrate the win of what we were able to accomplish, as that entity who did have the capacity to have that in line and be able to send that letter to the Mayor’s office.

Sarah Kirwan:

And I do think that that is absolutely empowering for other people. There’s a lot of work that we do, like you were just talking about, that we don’t stop and say okay, I did a really great job today, this could’ve given someone else power to use their voice. Sometimes we look at the larger, I don’t know, the larger job that we have right? As practitioners in this space and we get kind of overwhelmed because we’re thinking it could be better; I wanted it to be this; I wanted to make a bigger impact. I have also learned in my career that we don’t know how many individual lives we’ve touched, either, and that spreads. Those individual points of connection and conversation all spread to other parts of the community and bring us back together.

Sarah Kirwan:

There’s a lot of magic that exists within the disability community. I read Alice Wong’s Disability Visability and I was just reading an article that talks about this magic, that was on full display in this book. What do you see as the magic of the disability community? With the work that you do through Diversability?

Tiffany Yu:

Mmmmmm, I love that. Um, I do believe in the disability magic. I mean, I think what it is is that we have learned how to survive and thrive in a non-disabled world. And another one of the New York Times’ op ed was written by Liz Jackson, and her piece was called, We are the original live hackers, and so we have learned how to hack our way through a world that isn’t built for us. And I think that the magic comes in when we are able to share. Because one of one of the things after reading that post and I mention this a lot about the original life hackers, is that we are life hacking our way, but we’re we need to do that at scale, right? So, one of the things that I read in the piece, she talked about someone named Jerron Hermon, who’s this really incredible dancer with Cerebral Palsy. And, when he goes to eat waffles, he asks for a pizza cutter because it helps him cut the waffles with one hand.

Tiffany Yu:

And so I’m one-handed but I have a different diagnosis , but I thought that was so genius, but I had never thought of it, right? So, we’re all life-hacking. Um, but the magic comes in when we are able to be in community. And again, I think this is a beautiful way to kind of go back to what this conversation was about which is the magic really comes in when we realize how much potential we have in resource-sharing with each other, in sharing our individual magic with each other, and I really do believe that in community, we start to realize how much power and influence we do have to move mountains and hopefully, you know, the person who’s listening to this, that day is the best day to be disabled for them.

Sarah Kirwan:

Okay, so we are nearing the end and I want to ask one last final question before we say our goodbyes. What is a disability ally, and how can our listeners become one today? This is the change piece of the podcast. What can our listeners do today after listening to our conversation to become a disability ally?

Tiffany Yu:

That is a question that needs its own podcast. I started something inspired by my friend. I have a friend named Nicole Cardoza and she started a newsletter called the anti-racism daily and um I uh I don’t have the writing chops or maybe I do, but I didn’t start a newsletter, but I decided to start some really short-from video series called Anti-Ableism Daily and every single day, I share either some fact that people need to know about or some language that’s outdated or some other action that we can all be better allies. But, I think to be a better ally, I guess I’ll say two things. One, please get to know as many disabled people as possible follow them on social media, engage with their posts, build relationships with them that are equal, right?

Tiffany Yu:

When I created Diversabiltiy, again we are disabled and nondisabled, the nondisabled people who are part of our community are not volunteering for us. Because I don’t want them to feel good about themselves by just being our friends. I don’t want someone to feel like they’re volunteering to be my friend. I actually want to create equal peer-to-peer relationships of people who care about each other, disabled and nondisabled. That is actually how you change hearts and minds, is getting to know and and even I’m learning this because I feel like I existed in my own silo and I know I can be a better ally to my own community, as well. That was number one.

Tiffany Yu:

Number two is, I think we really need to be more aware of the language we use when we talk about disability. So, if I think about the latest video of my anti-ableism daily, it was about how when I tell people that I’m disabled, their response is I’m sorry. And, you know, like, what what do you way to that right? And then people are commenting on my video saying well, should I say cool? And I’m like. Yeah, that’s fine right? Because what I’m hoping is that when you tell someone you have MS and I tell someone that my arm is paralyzed, they’re like coo, right? You even talk about it right, how you mention that you have a flare up and you move onto the next part, but that person is still hung-up on the MS, the diagnosis, and the flare-up. And we need to actively catch ourselves there right?

Tiffany Yu:

I mean again, the language we use to talk about disability is so disempowering and that further perpetuates narratives about those of us who don’t have disabilities feel about disability and even those of us who are disabled feel about disability. That’s why we have so many disabled people who aren’t disclosing or claiming a disability identify, right, because the way we talk about disability is so disempowering as it currently exists.

Sarah Kirwan:

It absolutely is. Tiffany, I’m so happy that we were able to have this conversation; I really appreciate it and thank you. I’ve enjoyed every minute; I feel like we could go on and on. Maybe we’ll have to go back to; maybe in season 2 we’ll have to have a conversation about disability ally and that will be the whole conversation. Because I think that would be a great conversation for listeners to hear. Because even for those of us who have an invisible disability, I’m not always the best at advocating for myself with maybe family and friends in explaining that or using the right language. It’s something that we all can really work on each day.

Sarah Kirwan:

To our listeners, if you’d like to learn more about the work Tiffany is doing in the disability equity and inclusion space, please check-out the Diversability website at www.mydiversability.com. I know you have a large community on Facebook, as well. So, where can listeners find you on social media, Tiffany?

Tiffany Yu:

Those two places are great places. We do we do have this Facebook community; nondisabled allies ae welcome Um and are encouraged to join because I think that, going back to this allyship point, we want people to listen to the conversations that we’re having because if you can more intimately understand the conversations that we’re having with ourselves than you can be an ally for us in the spaces that we don’t have access to.

Sarah Kirwan:

Yes, exactly. Tiffany, thank you again. I wish you the best day! I’m so grateful to have this conversation with you and I appreciate your time.

Tiffany Yu:

For sure. Thanks, Sarah.

Sarah Kirwan:

Thanks, Tiffany.

Sarah Kirwan:

And once again to our listeners, thank you for spending your time with us and joining the Incluse This! conversation and movement. Incluse This! brought to you by Eye Level Communications, LLC. Eye Level is a California based woman and disability owned small business committed to having critical conversations at Eye Level that are necessary to move disability to the forefront of the greater diversity conversation. If you'd like to learn more about the work we're doing, please visit the website @www.eyelevel.works. You can also email me directly with any podcast, episode ideas or questions and comments @sarah@eye-level.works. Remember to put your disability lens on when you look at the world and tune in next week for another stimulating conversation on Incluse This!, the podcast, that's really a movement take care and be well.

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