From Sesame Street to S.T.E.P., Emily Ladau began an enriching career advocating for disability awareness after graduating Adelphi University in 2013.
Emily Ladau ’13 entered Adelphi her freshman year with the intention of becoming a high school English teacher. She enrolled in the Scholar Teacher Education Program (STEP) and began compiling an impressive array of activities and accomplishments. Honors College. Dean’s List. Multiple positions with the Future Teacher’s Association, including vice president and director of public relations. Writing Center tutor. Recipient of the Emerging Leader Award from the Omnicron Delta Kappa National Leadership Honor Society.
Then Ladau’s path started to take some detours. After two years of mentoring a student with Asperger’s syndrome from the Bridge’s to Adelphi program and doing a summer internship with the Suffolk Independent Living Organization, she realized her true calling was advocating for people with all types of disabilities and educating the general public about ‘what these disabilities entail, what kind of assistance people need and what laws they should abide by,” she says.
The role is one in which Ladau has already gained plenty of experience. Born with Larden’s Syndrome, she knows all too well the challenges faced by those with disabilities and is not the least bit uncomfortable discussing her physical disability or acknowledging her wheelchair, which she refers to as the “elephant in the room.”
At age 10, Ladau joined the cast of Sesame Street playing Emily, a young girl who moves into the neighborhood and just happens to be in a wheelchair and wear full leg braces. The experience was memorable, to say the least. “I got to sing with Elmo, meet Oscar the Grouch and see Big Bird’s nest,” she recalls. “I still have one of Big Bird’s feathers!” Ladau was able to educate the Muppets along with countless young viewers that despite their differences, children with disabilities are really the same as everyone else.
She’s found Adelphi to be as welcoming as Sesame Street. “On the whole, everyone’s been attentive and considerate of my needs, and no one’s made me feel unwelcome,” she says. Whenever she’s had an issue with accessibility, she has turned to Rosemary Garabedian in the office of Disability Support Services [now Student Access Office], who has promptly smoothed Ladau’s way by, for example, having automatic door openers with swipe-card entry installed so she can access the Honors College and Writing Center in Earle Hall.
“Emily has always been a great advocate for herself and provides the office with valuable feedback regarding campus access,” Garabedian says.
“I worry about being a bother,” Ladau says, “but Rosemary is always thanks me for bringing something to her attention and helping her advocate for making a change on campus.”
Ladau has high praise for the Honors College, the English department and STEP, as well. She says majoring in English has improved her communication and writing skills, both important assets for an advocate. ‘And even though I’m not in STEP anymore, the classes are going to be incredibly valuable,” she adds. “It’s not that I don’t intend to teach, just that I don’t intend on teaching in a traditional classroom setting.”
While she has big plans, Ladau believes even small actions can have a big impact. “If I can inspire even just one person to do something good, something that will make a difference, I’ll be happy,” she says.
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