2021 Plenary

"The State of Disability: Disability as a Social Justice Issue" by Andraéa LaVant

Smiling African-American woman wearing black turquoise and purple cat-eye glasses. She is wearing a black dress with red, purple, peach and turquoise flowers on it as well as peach floral earrings and red lipstick. Her hair is chin length natural curls. Although not depicted, she's a power wheelchair user.

In conversations about the fight for social justice, disability is often an afterthought. Even still, when disability is included, the conversation ends at the legal rights of people with disabilities. In reality, disabled people are a part of every community and have specific histories, cultures, and experiences of resistance. Not only do we experience oppression as disabled people – recognized as ABLEISM – but, because we are a part of so many other communities, we often experience other forms of oppression, including racism, classism, heterosexism, etc. As a woman of color with disabilities, Andraéa LaVant has personally felt the impact of intersecting ableism, racism, and sexism and the power of creating spaces that center the experiences of marginalized communities. In this plenary session, Andraéa will discuss her personal experiences with intersecting forms of oppression and how those fit within the larger landscape of ableism and racism; examine the current structures and systems used to define disability; and discover what it truly means to embrace disability as an identity and social justice issue.

Andraéa LaVant is founder and president of LaVant Consulting, Inc. (LCI), a social impact communications firm that offers cutting-edge corporate development and content marketing for brands and nonprofits. LCI's specialty is helping brands "speak disability with confidence." As a communications consultant and inclusion specialist, Andraéa has over a decade of experience working with programs that support youth and adults with disabilities and other underserved populations. Her professional roles and personal advocacy have presented her with a variety of notable opportunities to share messages and prompt change for people with disabilities across the globe. She currently serves as the impact producer for Netflix’s feature-length documentary, Crip Camp, where she is charged with leading the campaign’s efforts to promote understanding of disability as a social justice issue and build across lines of difference. Andraéa is a strong advocate for exploring disability from an intersectional lens and offers a unique perspective on the initiatives that she supports.