Imagining an Accessible NYC
We the Commuters
We the Commuters presents an exploration of accessibility in 2020. You’ll hear storytelling from writer and activist Emily Ladau and professor and disability rights advocate April Coughlin, new and engaging visualizations by rising civil designers Grace Kwon, Xuan Cheng, Janvi Ghatalia and Vanessa Yip, and moving performances by creatives in the disability community including Zazel-Chavah O’Garra.
Plus, get a chance to share your most pressing concerns in front of key decision makers who have the power to make change. WNYC’s Shumita Basu and others host the evening.
Emily Ladau is a passionate disability rights activist, writer, speaker, and digital communications consultant whose 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, Emily graduated with a B.A. in English from Adelphi University in 2013. 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.
Emily is the Editor in Chief of the Rooted in Rights Blog and she co-hosts “The Accessible Stall Podcast,” a show that dives into disability issues. Her writing has been published in outlets including The New York Times, SELF, Salon, Vice, and HuffPost and she has spoken before audiences across the United States, from the U.S. Department of Education to the United Nations. More about Emily’s work can be found on her website, Words I Wheel By. Follow her on Twitter at @emily_ladau.
Zazel-Chavah O’Garra is a native New Yorker who attended the University of Michigan and Empire State College where she received a Bachelor of Arts in dance performance. A Presidential Arts Scholar, she performed with Mark Dendy Dance Company and Alvin Ailey Wksp II. Zazel performed Off-Broadway and in numerous musical theatre stage productions in the U.S. and abroad and served as a movement coach for “AS THE WORLD TURNS”. As a professional model, she appeared on two Essence Magazine covers and several print and runway jobs. She also appeared in national, regional commercial industrials and supplied voice overs for a number of ads.
She is the recipient of the VSA-John F. Kennedy- National Teaching Artist fellowship and named the inaugural member of the White House Disability Liaison 2014. Zazel appeared on Dr. Oz to share her life as a brain tumor survivor. Wanting to share her story she performs Inside/Out (voices of the disability community) directed by Ping Chong nationwide. Recent performance includes: This/Ability-Samuel Beckett Theatre, Theatre Breaking Through Barriers, Undesirable Elements-Lincoln Center, Cooper Hewitt Museum, and Respectability-Positive Exposure 109 and Judson Church. Professional Affiliations: Arts and Education Committee-Board of Education, Disability Task Force, DANCE/NYC, Ambassador-Voices Against Brain Cancer. Zazel holds an MSW from Fordham University and is a member of SAG-AFTRA, EQUITY.
Zazel is the founder and Artistic Director of ZCO/DANCEPROJECT, a physically integrated dance company. ZCODP collaborates with different choreographers to create a varied selection of works that challenge the dancers in new ways and excite our audiences.
April Coughlin is a professor at the State University of New York at New Paltz in the School of Education. She also worked as a high school English teacher in New York City public schools for six years. April earned her PhD in Inclusive Education with a focus on Disability Studies at Syracuse University. Her research and teaching focus on access and equity for students with disabilities in schools. A “wheeler” since the age of six and a life-long disability rights advocate, April is committed to increasing awareness and education about the need for physical access and inclusion for individuals with disabilities in schools and the community.
Janvi is an aspiring design researcher and strategist pursuing her master’s degree in Design for Social Innovation at the School of Visual Arts. After studying Product Design in India, she has been engaged in designing industrial workspaces to improve the well being of laborers and designing strategy games to initiate dialogue around politics. She uses her passion for documentation and daily life to capture stories of everyday people.
Vanessa Yip is passionate about using design for good. She is particularly interested in restorative circular, sustainable systems that consider the well-being of the environment and people. She believes creativity and design enable positive social changes and fosters closer connections between people and the natural environment.
Grace Kwon goes by the nickname “professional brain picker.” Her insatiable curiosity in people manifests in the stories she tells through design. Her heart for human-centered design has taken her to organizations like the United Nations, SAP, and The Ministry of Foreign Affairs where she led design projects that focused on creating social impact in the education sector.
Xuan Cheng is a Data Designer and Researcher perusing her Masters at SVA DSI. Before coming to New York she studied at Tsinghua University while getting her BA in Visual Communication Design. She believes storytelling though data can inspire people when designing for inclusivity and equity. She wants to further test new ways to think through data and use it for social good. Her passion lies in exploring what exactly “social” means in different cultures, contexts, and data.
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