Alumna Continues Advocacy on Campus for Those with Disabilities

photo of Tiffany Yu in a red dress and hat leaning against a tree smiling

Posted in News Story

Founder of the student group and organization Diversability, Tiffany Yu (B’10) seeks to expand access for disabled students and celebrate disability culture on campus. Through philanthropy, advocacy and activism, Yu aims to help the university grow initiatives, programs and opportunities at Georgetown. 

Making a More Inclusive Institution

Yu was inspired to become more actively engaged in disability advocacy during her senior year after she observed a lack of disability peer groups and resources available to Georgetown students, faculty and staff. 

During her time as a resident assistant, Yu completed a diversity exercise where she and her fellow RAs were asked to assign varying proportions of their paper “pies” to correspond with the significance that each aspect of their identities held to them. While a large portion of her pie was attributed to her disability, Yu noticed that her fellow RA’s pie gave little creedence to their ableism, or the lack of discrimination that they face by being able-bodied. 

“The fact that I can’t use one of my arms is something I think about every single day, so when I saw {this} it was such an ‘aha moment’ for me that wow, if you don’t have a disability, you don’t think about it,” Yu says. 

Tiffany Yu sitting in front of a computer where a diversability tshirt

After this experience, she started the student group Diversability, which she later launched as her own company. Today, the alumna is committed to ensuring that disability access and culture continue to grow on campus. In June, the university established the Disability Empowerment Endowment Fund through a generous seed gift from Yu. 

“Georgetown is where Diversability first started, it is where I first found disability community, it is where I shared my disability origin story publicly for the first time and it is where I started to explore what it meant to be disabled and proud,” says Yu. “This fund represents disability empowerment, which to me means access to education for disabled folks, celebrating disability culture, forums to discuss disability identity, growing disability studies and dismantling ableism, together.”

After Yu attended Georgetown, the Program in Disability Studies was established by Libbie Rifkin in 2017. Since then, the program has grown to include over 70 disability studies minors, an MA and PhD certificate and offers over two dozen courses each year.  

In the 2020 academic year, the program put on a series of 8 events, including a Disability Studies Research Roundtable, an event with Dr. Liat Ben-Moshe called Decarcerating Disability: Deinstitutionalization and Prison Abolition and a Disability Studies Student Showcase. Recently, Yu sat on the Georgetown University Alumni Panel Life after Georgetown: Disability in the Workplace

Jennifer Natalya Fink, director of the Program in Disability Studies, says that “Tiffany Yu’s incredible generosity and vision will be transformative for disability culture at Georgetown — and for the entire Georgetown community.”

“Her gift to the Disability Empowerment Endowment Fund is truly empowering, as it allows us to envision a more inclusive and equitable Georgetown for all,” Fink explains. “Yu’s groundbreaking work as a philanthropist, entrepreneur and disability rights advocate embodies the very best of Georgetown’s Jesuit ethos of women and men for others. We couldn’t be more grateful for Tiffany’s leadership, vision and generosity.”

To support disability initiatives on campus and make a gift to the Disability Empowerment Endowed Fund, visit https://give.georgetown.edu/DisabilityEmpowerment.