Model: Leah Ten Eyck

To be disabled is often to exist within a world that was not built for you. It means breaking down the walls of inaccessibility and fighting for a seat at the table. Being disabled in an inaccessible world is challenging. Yet, my disability is not a tragedy; we can find beauty and power within our individual and collective struggles. To me, being disabled means using my experiences as an individual to help my community. It means using the hardships and trauma we have faced to build a brighter and more inclusive future for ourselves and for those who come after us. It is this belief that drives both my professional career and my activism.

As a senior at Columbia University, majoring in Cognitive Science with a specialty in computer science, I work to create technology that is accessible and adaptive for a wide variety of needs. I feel fortunate that I can use my skills to help ensure that everyone, regardless of age or disability, has the opportunity to engage with the digital world.

During my time at Columbia University, I have had the opportunity to meet with faculty, administration, and board members to lead conversations regarding campus accessibility and support for disabled students. I am also the co-founder of the National Coalition for Disabled Students, which aims to support disabled students across the United States by providing targeted solutions, support, and information to address key issues that disabled students face on campus. Our goal is to provide students with the resources needed to continue making a difference on their campus.
My activism has given me the opportunity to learn from and work with many incredible disability activists in the community. They have taught me what it means to be unapologetically disabled; they have taught me the true meaning of beauty. To me, beauty is a state of mind. It is the decision to be unwaveringly and unapologetically authentic, even when the world tells you that you shouldn’t.


Photographer: Lucas Hoeffel