Diversability is an award-winning movement to rebrand disability through the power of community.

Diversability is an award-winning movement to rebrand disability through the power of community.

Meet Maki of our Yamakimoto x Diversability "Nevertheless, She Persisted" Cards #NeverthelessShePersisted

Did you know that April is National Letter Writing Month? To celebrate, we have partnered with our favorite Etsy store (and Diversability supporter) Yamakimoto to offer these limited edition "Nevertheless, She Persisted" cards, a message that has resonated with so many in our community to break barriers.

We'll only be offering these through the end of the month, so buy one (or save and buy a pack of 4) for all the people who inspire you in your life. Buy the cards at http://bit.ly/diversabilitycards

Learn more about Maki and Yamakimoto below.


I spent two months in Nagano, Japan the summer before I turned thirteen. Instead of a summer of ice cream cones and lazy afternoons, I attended school there. Swim class was required, school lunches were healthy, students cleaned classrooms, exams were hard, words were proper, no school buses existed, I laughed, I mostly cried, mosquitos loved me.

When I returned to the US, I eagerly replaced memories of the summer with new ones in my American school. Then, one afternoon, my mother excitedly showed me a bulging envelope, the return address neatly written with a school’s address. I opened it, and handwritten messages written on beautiful stationery (seriously, where did Ayasa find that flower stationery?) and accented with colorful words and stickers spilled out. My fellow classmates that I had spent the summer with had taken their precious time to write to me.

また来てね!(Come back again!)

今度来たら、夏祭りに行こうね。(Next time, let’s go to the summer festival.)

英語の勉強をしてるの。(I’m trying to learn English now.)

Each note was unique and filled with sweet sentiments or contained information about their day-to-day lives. I unfolded and refolded every note countless times. It didn’t matter that I had basically memorized the contents of each letter; the rush I felt from unfolding them felt new every time.

This is when I fell in love with snail mail. This is when I felt the power of snail mail.

Years later, I wondered if I could make my own cards. Using blank white cardstock as my canvas, I decided to design my own cards and cater them to each person. I ended up loving it so much that I opened an Etsy shop because I wanted an outlet and an accessible way to share my greeting cards.

Last autumn, I turned thirty and we elected a new president. There was such a fire and desire that filled me, and I furiously took pen (and pencil and paintbrush) to paper. Tiffany and Francesca reached out to me at the peak of my frustration and defeat. Let’s work on a collaboration, they said. I was flattered.

Candid photo of Diversability founder Tiffany and Maki chatting at #DiversabilityAMA, October 2015

Candid photo of Diversability founder Tiffany and Maki chatting at #DiversabilityAMA, October 2015

I’d always admired Tiffany’s work ethic and mission-driven purpose with Diversability. Ever since I attended one of her Diversability AMAs in New York, I knew I wanted to help. We decided to use the quote ‘Nevertheless, she persisted’ because it encompassed the drive that we had. We wanted to send along this powerful message to women and allies everywhere.

All of my greeting cards are purposefully left blank inside because I want people to take the time to write personal messages to loved ones. Seeing that the world seems more divided than ever, I want to empower all to use their words for good. I hope you’ll consider sending a card to someone soon. They need to hear from you more than you know.

Special for our readers: Use code SHIPSHIPAWAY for free shipping on Etsy, or contact us if you’d rather buy offline.

Yamakimoto x Diversability Limited Edition Cards, available through the end of this month at http://bit.ly/diversabilitycards

Yamakimoto x Diversability Limited Edition Cards, available through the end of this month at http://bit.ly/diversabilitycards

Announcing the Launch of Awesome Foundation Disability #AwesomeDisability

By Tiffany Yu

January 21, 2017 was a rainy day in San Francisco. But I was still excited because not only were women and men coming together for the Women’s March, but also Alice Wong of the Disability Visibility Project and I were meeting for the first time. I’ve been a big fan of Alice’s work since my New York days.

We met for tea and coffee cake at her home and chatted about all things San Francisco, disability, and community.

Image description: two Asian American women next to each other at a kitchen table. The woman on the left [Alice] is in a wheelchair with a mask over her nose and wearing a navy blue hoodie. The woman on the right [Tiffany] has a necklace and a black v-neck shirt on. Both are smiling to the camera.

Image description: two Asian American women next to each other at a kitchen table. The woman on the left [Alice] is in a wheelchair with a mask over her nose and wearing a navy blue hoodie. The woman on the right [Tiffany] has a necklace and a black v-neck shirt on. Both are smiling to the camera.

Something Alice said really resonated with me. “What do we do with the privilege we have been given [to be a leader and have a voice in this community]?”

As a self-proclaimed inclusion and empowerment advocate, I mentioned to Alice that I had been thinking a lot about what empowerment looks like in our community. Maybe a fund that invested in or incubated inclusive products or startups, maybe a monthly financial award recognizing incredible disability advocates… When I think about what we as individuals can give to others, it comes down to time, relationships, and money. On that last point, I couldn’t help but think about the #DisablePoverty campaign that highlighted the limited employment opportunities and therefore the limited upward financial mobility that people in our community continue to face. It breaks my heart.

Then Alice told me she applied for a $1,000 microgrant from the San Francisco chapter of The Awesome Foundation. The Awesome Foundation is a community of autonomous chapters of self-organized “micro-trustees” that distributes $1,000 grants, no strings attached, to projects and their creators. Each trustee commits to contributing $100 per month and the contributions together are what creates the $1,000 grant.

That’s when we came up with the idea to create a global chapter of the Awesome Foundation focused on disability, consisting of trustees who all identify as having a disability. I knew Alice and I were committed, but would we be able to find 8 others who were just as excited about supporting our community?

Less than a month later, we had our group of founding trustees for Awesome Disability. We are:

  1. Tiffany Yu - San Francisco, CA, USA

  2. Alice Wong - San Francisco, CA, USA

  3. Alexandra McArthur - Raleigh, NC, USA

  4. Ian Smith - Oakland, CA, USA

  5. Jason Boberg - Auckland, New Zealand

  6. John Fazzolari - New York, NY, USA

  7. Liz Henry - San Francisco, CA, USA

  8. Riad Masoet - Cape Town, South Africa

  9. Victor Pineda - Berkeley, CA, USA

  10. Walei Sabry - New York, NY, USA

We are not a 501(c)3 non-profit or a corporation, we’re just a group of people with disabilities who want to pay it forward to our community.

How the Awesome Foundation Disability works:

  • 10 trustees (on average) each contribute $100 per month.
  • People with awesome ideas submit an application for the grant (in English, please).
  • The trustees review and discuss the applications, and pick the best one.
  • The winner is given $1,000, no strings attached.
  • The process is repeated every month, in order to spread the awesomeness.

Here are a few projects that have been funded by other Awesome chapters:

If you’ve got an awesome idea and $1,000 would make it a reality, apply for a grant.

If you’d like to join us as an Awesome Disability trustee down the line, apply to become a trustee.

Image description: In pink "AWESOME FOUNDATION DISABILITY" in block text with the Awesome Foundation logo on the right (fast forward sign). Underneath in black text "What would you do with $1000?" Underneath in pink block text "EVERY MONTH WE AWARD $1000 TO MAKE A NEW AWESOME PROJECT HAPPEN." In black block text "APPLY AT DISABILITY.AWESOMEFOUNDATION.ORG"

Image description: In pink "AWESOME FOUNDATION DISABILITY" in block text with the Awesome Foundation logo on the right (fast forward sign). Underneath in black text "What would you do with $1000?" Underneath in pink block text "EVERY MONTH WE AWARD $1000 TO MAKE A NEW AWESOME PROJECT HAPPEN." In black block text "APPLY AT DISABILITY.AWESOMEFOUNDATION.ORG"

We’d love your help getting the word out by sharing this via Facebook, Twitter, etc. It takes a second and the person you share this with might be the next recipient of a cool grant that spreads awesomeness in our community.

Can Music Help Children Learn?

By Jenny Holt

No matter our diversabilities and those of our children, it has long been thought that musical choices can aid or hinder intellectual growth. For decades, parents have played classical music to unborn children and young babies in the hope it helps improve their natural IQs. Furthermore, music therapy and music-based education helps many children including neurally diverse children, for instance those with autism. Now, researchers with Ledgernote have trawled through academic journals and studies to compare music tastes with SAT scores.

Parents of children with special educational needs are well-placed to understand the value of music. Many educational environments place great value on music and it has a truly positive impact on many children. Even children who may be non-verbal or use an alternative communication method can rejoice in music and it is a valuable therapy for children of far reaching and diverse abilities. 

Below outlines some of the findings of the research.

Music Acts with the Best SATs:

1. Beethoven - 1371
2. Radiohead - 1220
3. Ben Folds - 1218
4. Bob Dylan - 1197
5. Norah Jones - 1180

Music Acts with the Worst SATs:

5. Justin Timberlake - 989
4. Aerosmith - 987
3. Jay-Z - 970
2. Beyonce - 932
1. Lil Wayne - 889

These lists cover individual acts and groups, but music tastes go beyond any single artist to whole genres. Luckily, there are SAT range results for genres too:

Blues - 965 to 1220
Country - 985 to 1085
Folk - 990 to 1210
Indie - 960 to 1295
Jazz - 935 to 1220
Metal - 1000 to 1125
Punk - 920 to 1025
Rap - 850 to 1150
Rock - 975 to 1270
RnB/Soul - 875 to 1080

It is worth noting that these results are not academically rigorous. They do not look at the baseline IQ or abilities of kids, nor demographic backgrounds or their diversability. Many children with special educational needs have exceptional skills which expand far beyond what a simple (or complex test) can show. Furthermore, most people enjoy multiple artists spread over multiple genres of music.

If you would like to learn more, however, check out the full results on how music choices affect SAT scores.

About the Author
Jenny Holt is a mother of two, one of whom has a learning disability. Jenny began introducing her daughter to music to support the learning process and she responded positively. Jenny's findings sparked a new interest in the correlation between musical tastes and SAT scores.  

A Round of Applause

Happy 2017!

Members of the Diversability community are off to a strong start this year. In 2016, individuals have been honored for their advocacy and social entrepreneurial ventures, fundraising goals have been surpassed, and progress continues to amount. We are pleased to share this progress and encourage all to continue onward in the pursuit of further successes. 


ArtLifting recognized on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list in the Social Entrepreneurs category.

Liz and Spencer Powers. Credit: artlifting.com

Liz and Spencer Powers. Credit: artlifting.com

Co-founded by Liz Powers and her brother, Spencer, ArtLifting empowers artists living with homelessness or disabilities through the celebration and sale of their artwork. ArtLifting affords artists the chance to earn income through the sale of their original paintings, prints and other products. Artists earn 55% from the profit of each sale, 1% goes to strengthening community partners and the remaining 44% furthers the ArtLifting mission. Since 2013, ArtLifting has grown from 4 to 72 artists across 1 1 states. 

Ava in the Consumer Technology Category!

Thibault Duchemin, Pieter Doevendans and Skinner Cheng. Credit: forbes.com

Thibault Duchemin, Pieter Doevendans and Skinner Cheng. Credit: forbes.com

Ava, founded by Thibault Duchemin, Pieter Doevendans and Skinner Cheng, is a mobile tool used to convert conversations into text for hearing-impaired individuals. The app takes conversations through a phone's microphone and transcribes it into text that can be read. CEO Duchemin grew up as the only hearing individual in an all-deaf family and has been bridging communication gaps ever since.

If you're compelled  to get more involved, they are hiring! 

Xian Horn Featured  in Forbes

Xian Horn. Credit: Ken Pao

Xian Horn. Credit: Ken Pao

My parents always told me anything was possible, and in my life I always treated my disability as a practical consideration.
— Xian Horn

Xian Horn, founder of Give Beauty Wings and Changeblazer was interviewed by Forbes to highlight the often "underrepresented minority" of individuals with disabilities. The joy with which she embraces life is evident in her interview with Paolo Gaudiano and Ellen Hunt of Forbes. While she understands that everyone engages one another differently, Xian makes herself "physically and emotionally available" to have interactions with others on the street. She understands that fear often prevents people from communicating, so with openness and a smile she combats that barrier each day. Read the entire article here

SHONA Congo achieves AIRSS Resettlement Goal

A featured product from SHONA Congo. Credit: shonacongostore.com

A featured product from SHONA Congo. Credit: shonacongostore.com

SHONA Congo is composed of five female artisans, Dawn, Argentine, Mapendo, Riziki, and Solange, who create handmade pieces to provide for themselves and their children. Argentine, Mapendo and their families, including 3 disabled adults and 6 children, fled Congo in February of 2016 and have been living as refugees. They support themselves entirely through their SHONA Congo sewing. The AIRSS has submitted applications to sponsor these families for resettlement in Canada but $58,000 would be required to support the family for their first year. As of this month, the goal has been surpassed, totaling $58,500! To support these artisans on their journey, visit SHONA Congo

AbleThrive Surpasses Fundraising Goal

AbleThrive, a one-stop platform for people with disabilities and their families to access curated resources from around the world, had a momentous 2016. They surpassed their fundraising goal with $20,296 dollars raised. Throughout the year, 60,000 visitors visited their website and their ally network grew to 140 organizations. They welcomed a new city director and gained significant media exposure as well. Bravo! 

To participate in their #ThisIsHowI challenges, visit the AbleThrive Facebook page

Actress Anita Hollander Performs in Three Roles at the Goodman Theatre

Anita Hollander on the cover of the Chicago Tribune.

Anita Hollander on the cover of the Chicago Tribune.

Actress Anita Hollander was featured on the cover of the Chicago Tribune for three roles she portrayed at the fabulous Goodman Theatre. Anita, who lost her leg to cancer, gives disability the attention it is too often denied in her art. 

Founder, Tiffany Yu, participates in Ford Foundation's #InequalityIs

Tiffany was selected to participate in Ford Foundation's #InequalityIs series alongside Elton JohnGloria SteinemRichard Branson, and others. If you have not seen it yet, check it out below. 

Inequality is exclusion. Exclusion is disabling.
— Tiffany Yu

Tech Inclusion 2016: In A Word, Welcoming #TechInclusion16

By Nick Lum

Deaf in Tech at #TechInclusion16

Deaf in Tech at #TechInclusion16

The second annual Tech Inclusion conference took place last week at the Google-owned hangar near the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco. This event brought together people from companies large and small, as well as from various levels of government. The panels were relevant and informative, with talks on diversity, inclusion, and technology. And the speakers hailed from big tech companies and included both newcomers and standard-bearers in the accessibility community. 

But the best part about Tech Inclusion was the friendly and welcoming atmosphere. At many tech conferences, attendees are buried in their phones or laptops and do not engage with people they don’t already know. Perhaps because the conference is so new, and thus most of the attendees were first-timers, people seemed surprisingly open to meeting and chatting with new people. 

Though I saw some old friends at the conference, the most interesting conversations I had were with folks who approached me and struck up a conversation. For the most part, these people worked for large companies or governmental agencies outside Silicon Valley, and they had come to see what tech companies are doing in terms of diversity and inclusion. All of them were first-timers at the conference, like me. We talked about our work, our hopes for the conference, and our motivations for coming. Everyone seemed genuinely interested in learning more about diversity and inclusion—learning about what other companies were doing, offering to help, and creating meaningful connections. 

It was also nice that device usage wasn’t quite as high as at most tech conferences. Sure, people checked their phones, and some people had laptops with them, but overall folks were paying attention to the people in front of them—both during presentations and while milling about. This was a welcome change, and it probably helped create a welcoming environment where conversations and friendships could flourish.

I don’t know if the culture of this conference will change in future years, but I’ll definitely be back next year to meet new friends and reconnect with old ones!

Nick Lum is the founder of BeeLine Reader, an Intel-backed company that makes reading on-screen easier, faster, and more accessible.

Reflections on The THRIVE Network's People Who THRIVE Cocktail Fundraiser

By Kieran O'Brien Kern

Diversability was honored to attend The THRIVE Network's People Who THRIVE Cocktail Fundraiser last month in celebration of their 20 years of service, which recognized some of New York’s exemplary leaders and humanitarians for their outstanding work with various charities within the community:

  • Hassan Whiteside, Miami Heat Center & Brand Ambassador, NASSAN'S PLACE
  • Mindy Scheier, Founder, Runway of Dreams
  • Glenn E. Martin, Founder & President, JustLeadershipUSA
  • Howard Cross, New York Giants Super Bowl Champion
  • Tony Richardson, 3X Pro Bowler & 2X Second-Team All-Pro

Thank you Kieran for your reflections on the event below.

Charles A. Archer and Mindy Scheier

Charles A. Archer and Mindy Scheier

Independence and inclusion are prime directives within the disability community; rarely are these subjects discussed in able-bodied communities as they are often overlooked and/or underserved. For able-bodied people to fully understand the hard work, persistence and guts required for us to live independently, they need to know that having a disability is one of the richest classrooms a human can experience. And at the end of the day, people with disabilities are first and foremost, PEOPLE! Like all individuals, people with disabilities have interests and needs seeking to live ordinary lives.

Inclusion is at the heart of the programs, services and support available through The THRIVE Network, where they create opportunities and empower the abilities of individuals who may feel marginalized, disadvantaged and/ or disenfranchised by society. The organization’s focus: to help their consumers become a vital contributor to the community at large. On Tuesday October 18th, The People Who THRIVE Cocktail Fundraiser honored change makers who support, empower and uplift those in need.

The party started like most do with clinked glasses and decadent passed hors d'oeuvres at the Ainsworth. Cameras flashed and videos were taken as stars from fashion to football mingled together. Everyone who spoke had a story of how disability or exclusion had touched their lives. Emcee and WPIX sports anchor and reporter, Dyrol Joyner, shared how his cousin had a developmental disability and how his family worked together to help him have a life of his own. Charles A. Archer, CEO & Founder, The THRIVE Network, spoke of his commitment to inclusion. "I have spent my entire life in civic service, attempting to find a place where all individuals feel a part of society and as included members of our community. We all desire to live with dignity, respect and independence, including those with disabilities,” he explained.

Honoree Mindy Scheier’s commitment to adaptive clothing was inspired by her son’s desire to wear jeans to school like the other kids. As a child with Muscular Dystrophy and the inability to dress himself, he wore sweatpants to accommodate his care. With a background in design, Scheier took a year to research the best way to adapt mainstream clothes to fit the needs of her son and every kid encountering the same difficulties. Three years later, her organization Runway of Dreams, partnered with Tommy Hilfiger on a children’s line with an adult line coming out in the spring. JustLeadershipUSA, Founder and President Glenn E. Martin’s experience with exclusion came when he was incarcerated for six years. Instead of falling through the cracks of a system in desperate need of repair, he found himself and the fortitude to make the world a better place. Martin’s aim was to elevate the voice of Americans impacted by crime and incarceration and position them as reformed partners.

From football heroes to the families of NBA stars, everyone has been touched by the injustices of exclusion. Despite of this, they continued on and fought for the people they love. Two individuals I met at the evening’s events stood out to me in particular as people who see the power and effect that inclusion can positively impact their community. Working with JustLeadershipUSA, Lamont had come to the event to support Glenn E. Martin. As a Program Coordinator, he saw how working and volunteering in the community helped people who are in the justice system have a voice. We bonded over these shared experiences from the community when they encounter someone who is either incarcerated or disabled participating in community life. “I didn’t know they could do that!” Inclusion means that the notion of ‘they’ will cede to the notion of ‘we’.

I don’t even know the name of the woman who impressed me at the Ainsworth. In line for the accessible restroom, I met a woman who worked for THRIVE. She was waiting for her client who was indisposed. We talked about the power of inclusion, and building and maintaining relationships. “Working with them isn’t just a job; they aren’t just clients, they’re my friends and family.” When she helped her client out of the bathroom, you could see in their body language and the looks on their faces, they weren’t just a helper but were a team.

Those two ladies represented what the whole evening was about--- supporting and respecting each other, while shining a spotlight to those who make a difference in their communities. The funds raised went to support the THRIVE Network’s Sunday Respite Program, which creates memorable and life-changing opportunities for consumers with developmental disabilities, while giving their primary caretakers some much needed relief.


Charles A. Archer, Glenn E. Martin, Carla D. Brown, Dyrol Joyner and Michael Needleman

Charles A. Archer, Glenn E. Martin, Carla D. Brown, Dyrol Joyner and Michael Needleman

#DiversabilityPDX at OHSU's Night for Networking

By Ian Leslie 

Diversability PDX lead Ian attended the Night for Networking at OHSU last week. Night for Networking is a focused yet comfortable evening of business networking that connects job-seekers with disabilities and local employers. Participants include job-seekers, recruiters, volunteers, job-coaches, interpreters and supporters. Check out his reflections below.

Photo courtesy of Ian Leslie

Photo courtesy of Ian Leslie

Met Patrick Elijah last night at Night For Networking hosted by OHSU.

Patrick and I started chatting and I learned about his story and how he lost his eyesight. He moved to the states from Nigeria in the 70's and began his work career. Later on, he was assaulted on the job when someone poured acid in his eyes, flown to the UK, and went through 3 surgeries. Unfortunately, the eyesight never came back. I asked him what the biggest difference, besides losing his eyesight, has been to his life and he said that tasks that used to take 30 seconds, now take over 2 minutes to complete. Imagine having to relearn life like that, it would be so frustrating it's hard to even empathize.

What blew me away was his: positivity, fortitude, and resiliency. He has been relearning skills and was at N.O.N. determined to find a job that can help him jumpstart his career again. His positive outlook on life, even with such a traumatic event that happened was amazing to experience and motivates me to #ShareTheLove.

This is what Diversability is all about. Promoting full inclusion and helping all people understand that having a disability is merely another form of diversity. All too often we shy away from individuals with disabilities, just remember that everyone is equal, no matter how you may perceive them.

As we started talking about Diversability and what we are hoping to accomplish in bringing it to PDX, he expressed interest in getting involved. We will be getting together for a coffee in the coming weeks and I invite anyone else who wants to learn more about Patrick's story or wants to help create this inclusive community in Portland to DM me or stay tuned for further details.


Meet Us at #TechInclusion16 in San Francisco, October 26-27

You may remember we were a media partner of Tech Inclusion NY earlier this year. We are excited to partner with Change Catalyst again to be a partner of next week's Tech Inclusion SF presented by Google for Entrepreneurs. 

Join us for this inclusive tech event, where you’ll experience inclusive and accessible design, find diverse talent, learn new solutions to diversity and inclusion, meet underrepresented entrepreneurs and investors, speak with policy makers and educators, and network with other people who care about creating change in the tech ecosystem.

We wanted to give you a chance to meet a few members of the Diversability community who will be in attendance. We asked them what tech inclusion meant to them and which part of the conference they are most excited about.

Brittany Déjean, Founder & Director, AbleThrive

I love to get AbleThrive represented in spaces where people care about inclusion, particularly those who don't have experience and are looking to learn. It's my favorite environment to be an ally to spark conversations with attendees, find out why they're there and see what I can do to support their journey. As for people with disabilities there, I aim to spread AbleThrive and build more support within the community. Also, now that I'm officially living here, I'm eager to get more exposure in this area and meet as many people as possible to strengthen our networks.

I'm excited to see which companies are making a commitment to inclusion that includes people with disabilities. 

Nick Lum, Founder & CEO, BeeLine Reader

Tech inclusion is about universal design—building products that are accessible to a wide range of people. This requires empathy and understanding, as well as having diverse teams involved in designing, building, and testing products. Not surprisingly, the panel I’m most excited about is Accessibility and Inclusive Design! Can’t wait to hear from speakers and meet with other inclusivity-minded technologists.

Register at sf16.techinclusion.coEnjoy 20% off your ticket using the code DiversAbility20percent.

#DiversabilityAMA Recap: Breaking the fear of disability and finding empathy

By Brittany Déjean, Founder and Executive Director, AbleThrive

Photo of event attendees and speakers, with speakers sitting in the front in lime green chairs and two rows behind them.

Photo of event attendees and speakers, with speakers sitting in the front in lime green chairs and two rows behind them.

Tiffany Yu, founder of Diversability, opened up the event sharing her own experience when she started her life with a disability at age 9 after a car accident. Tiffany talked about the challenges of being made fun of, of feeling isolated, but she turned it to strength. We all know what it feels to not belong, but the theme of the night entered around finding the power within. 

Stress and challenge can be a gift, which can be used to help overcome the stigma of disability. There’s no reason to feel shamed or be ashamed for who you are. 

Gina Moffa, a licensed clinical social worker for the past 15 years, set the tone for the event by sharing her own experiences as an advocate for speaking our truths, finding our truths, and finding a place of acceptance with one another.

The first speaker was Sarah Fader, who spoke passionately about her work with Stigma Fighters to get rid of the negativity surrounding mental illness. It started with her embracing her differences and diagnoses rather than trying to fit someone else’s “normal”. “I’ll never be normal and that’s ok because normal isn’t real,” she shared from her Diversability.TV piece

Allie Cashel, author of Suffering the Silence, always found herself performing, even when she tried to hide the impact of Lyme Disease. As she struggled with symptoms over the years, she struggled with the impact of doctors who didn’t believe her. “I lost faith in myself and stopped talking about it,” she shared. She also had to find a way to accept herself. 

The third speaker was Erica Lupinacci, an actress, who also struggled with misdiagnoses and mistrusting doctors until she was diagnosed with Lupus. She also kept her struggles to herself. Ironically enough, she was best friends with Allie in school, yet neither ever spoke to the other about their challenges. Now, they’ve come together to create Suffering the Silence, a movement to allow people the opportunity to find strength in vocalizing their experience. 

The last speaker was Dior Vargas, who is a Latina mental health advocate who struggled with mental illness when she was younger. She was left even without language to express her feelings. People in her community didn’t speak about mental health, but she’s now passionate to break the cycle of silence. She started a photo project to document and humanize other people of color facing similar challenges. 

These stories sparked a fruitful discussion among all attendees about what it means to find strength in adversity. Story after story shared made it clear that the common thread was empathy—we don’t need to be the same to find points of connection and strength. 

Tiffany closed with a powerful idea—while we all work to break our internal glass ceilings to reach our dreams, keep in mind that we’re all a work in progress. We can’t do it alone, and we’re certainly stronger together.

About the Author

Brittany Déjean is founder and executive director of AbleThrive, a social enterprise with a one-stop platform of curated resources for living well with a disability and an inclusion consultancy service. Brittany’s dad was paralyzed in a car accident when she was 12 years old and she saw first hand that it’s possible to live well with a disability and has dedicated her life to spreading that message. A 2008 Harvard University graduate, Brittany also worked with disability communities in 5 countries, giving her a sense of the common issues across geographic areas. Brittany specializes in removing the fear and discomfort that are barriers to inclusion and focuses on how to engage with people with disabilities as human beings. 

Learn about TEE TALENT: The new t-shirt company building jobs for people living with disabilities

TEE TALENT is a new t-shirt company based in Canada started by Shayne Smith and Carlos Fred Martins to create fun and inspiring t-shirts that both expands peoples views of disability and creates jobs for people living with disabilities.  Watch the video below to learn more about Shayne and Carlos and their exciting new project:

To learn more about TEE TALENT, see their designs and get involved you can visit their website and Instagram