Tell me about yourself, your brand, and what it represents.
I am the founder and CEO of diverse abilities, which is all about the celebration of the diversity of our disability lived experiences. I started it based on my own personal experiences of being involved in a car accident with my dad when I was nine years old. I had a spinal cord injury known as brachial plexus injury that ended up paralyzing my right arm. As a disabled person growing up, I wish that I had the opportunity to root myself in the community, I wish that I had disabled mentors Disabled role models.
Diversability is really all about community, it’s about democratizing visibility, amplifying, showcasing, and empowering people in our community as to how incredible they are. Diverse mobility is really the manifestation of what I wish would have existed when I was younger.
How did it all start? Continuity.
I started diver stability in 2009. It started as a club at my university campus, I went to Georgetown University, and I noticed that there were clubs that addressed all different aspects of identity, but there wasn’t really a club that addressed disability on campus, so I created one. I applied for a reimagined Georgetown grant, the grant actually wasn’t that much money but it was really the vote of confidence for this idea, and I know that oftentimes people with disabilities don’t really have that. It meant more than just the money.
All of our growth has been organic. It has been really humbling for me to see how the brand has grown and how people have been attracted to it and spreading the word.
In 2009, when we started, I remember getting a little bit of pushback around people not really understanding how someone could be proud of their disability identity, but I think what has kept me going is just the people who resonate with divisibility really believe or want to believe that their stories matter and that we can provide a platform for them to amplify that.
Even though I am a disabled woman of color, I still hold privilege in all of those identities. I want to use whatever platform, privilege, power, a voice I do have to continue to lift others up.
There’s a phrase I really like that says, Your presence and your success is your advocacy. Your presence and your success are your activism, your presence, and your success and your existence is your protest.
What’s your inspiration towards your podcast?
It was a pandemic project and I’ve always wanted to start a podcast for a long time. In a world where everything is virtual, I see podcasts as a commuting device plus it helps me stay off-screen.
I also wanted to use this platform to help elevate conversations, have conversations that mattered and make people see what people in my network are doing.
I feel extremely humbled by this journey. The one thing I’m the proudest of is the fact that I like myself. I’m in love with the woman I see in the mirror every morning.
I’ve worked at some prestigious places like Goldman Sachs, Bloomberg before starting my own brand and this single act has made me achieve a lot physically and be able to reach out to other people and I celebrate every milestone.
5-10 years goals
After my dad died, things really turned around for me, so instead of setting goals that would last five to 10 years, I’m more focused on what my present situation is. With the current pandemic, it’s hard to really see what 5-10 years will look like.
I would love to write a book, in a memoir kind of thing.
I love being outside. I love hiking, trying new foods, traveling. I’ve been to 47 countries, the last of which was, I conquered Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. I also took a couple of online courses and I strongly recommend this course “Science of well being”. It’s free on Coursera.
What’s the bigger picture?
I’m on a mission to advance intersectional disability representation, but I think deeper than that, it’s really about how can we be unapologetically ourselves? How can we know that our stories matter and be seen in our vulnerability and our courage and our strength and be validated in those experiences?
The secret to thriving
It will be aligning everything I do with my values. You can go to my website Tiffany Yu.com, everything is there.
Any other thing you are involved in?
I run a micro-grant called the awesome foundation disability, we’ve awarded over $40,000 in grants to disability projects across eight countries and I’ve also been involved in the San Francisco mayor’s disability Council. I’m also part of something at Tick Tock called the creative learning Fund, which is all about kind of putting bite-sized education, and then of course I have the Tiffany Yu podcast.
Lessons to young people out there who feel they’re physically challenged.
I think it’s really just understanding that no matter how small or big it is, you have influence and you have power, and you have the privilege. So the most important thing, I think, is to just continue creating, and being consistent and doing it for yourself.
The one thing I tell people is to give yourself the advice you would love your younger self to have.
Quotes I live by.
- In a world where you can be anything, be kind.
- If you don’t ask, the answer is always No.