Educate yourself by learning and listening to disabled people. Social media is a powerful tool that opens many doors for thoughtful conversations on disability rights, issues, and culture. I am always learning and a huge fan of Keah Brown, Andraéa LaVant, Rebecca Cokley, Judith Heumann, Jenny Lay-Flurrie, Alice Wong, Imani Barbarin, and Christina Mallon.
As a part of our “Unstoppable” series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tiffany Meehan.
Tiffany Meehan is the Vice President of Marketing at Inclusively, an innovative employment platform connecting disabled job seekers with employers who are cultivating inclusive workplaces. Based in Northern Virginia, Tiffany graduated from The George Washington University and received a BA in English and Religion. She has previously worked on successful marketing campaigns with DC Mayor Muriel Bowser, The National Conference Center, SiriusXM, and Lisner Auditorium. In her spare time, she enjoys going to concerts, traveling, and making home-cooked meals for family and friends.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! It is really an honor. Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
Thanks so much for including me in this series! I was born and raised in Washington, DC, and Northern Virginia, and spent a few wonderful years in Nashville, TN after I graduated from The George Washington University in 2011. I’m a first-generation American, with my mother having roots in South America. I’m a marketing professional and photographer, and currently the Vice President of Marketing at an exciting company, Inclusively, that has launched the leading employment platform for job seekers with disabilities. I was born with Spina bifida and use a wheelchair, so Inclusively’s mission to create space for people with disabilities in the corporate world is near to my heart. It’s been incredibly rewarding to help connect job seekers with employers who are cultivating inclusive workplaces.
Do you feel comfortable sharing with us the story surrounding how you became disabled or became ill? What mental shift did you make to not let that “stop you”?
Discovering my love of competitive wheelchair tennis as a child gave me the opportunity to be around other disabled people and opened me up to the world of accessible travel. I’ve been to the top of Machu Picchu (with the assistance of three wonderful Peruvian tour guides), wandered the cobblestone streets of Florence to find the perfect gelato, and solo road-tripped through the mountains of Montana. While I have tried to not let my disability limit me physically, I certainly acknowledge that my disability has impacted my life socially, economically, and professionally. Job searching was a struggle in the sense that no matter how much experience, skills, and education I had, I eventually needed to ask for accommodations such as parking, a ramp into the building, or a larger cubicle so I could maneuver my chair. I wouldn’t be telling the truth if I said that my disability hasn’t had an impact on employers’ perceptions of me. I’ve had jobs where I was denied necessary accommodations or mocked for needing them. I’m so thankful to have found a company and position that values my unique experiences where I can focus on my work to help other disabled people get connected to well-deserved equal opportunities.
Can you tell our readers about the accomplishments you have been able to make despite your disability or illness?
The largest minority group in the U.S., people with disabilities, are twice as likely to be unemployed compared to those without disabilities, with further disparities among BIPOC people with disabilities. I’m proud to be part of the disability community, and that I’ve been able to follow my passions, using my skills to create opportunities for myself and others. However, I’m aware that my story is not typical of people with disabilities. The disability community has largely been ignored, underrepresented, and excluded from many of life’s opportunities and joys. I’m grateful that I now help advocate for equal opportunities for people with disabilities through my work at Inclusively. I hope that my success can pave the way for others with disabilities and demonstrate to non-disabled people that we are valuable, talented, and deserving of opportunities.
What advice would you give to other people who have disabilities or limitations?
Make your voice heard. Ask for that promotion, demand a seat at the table, make noise when something isn’t right or fair. To be truly included, people with disabilities need to be in positions of power to create change from the top down. To build your confidence, remind yourself that as a disabled person, you have had to navigate every situation, challenge, and interaction with thoughtful planning and careful problem-solving. Those are often seen as obstacles, but they are also incredibly valuable skills in high-demand by employers. Learn to see aspects of your disability as skills and enhancements, and proudly tout your accomplishments.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?
My family, most notably my mother and younger sister Briana, has been a constant source of support. Their unwavering confidence in me gave me a solid foundation of self-worth and motivation that I understand not every disabled person has. Professionally, I’m fortunate to have disability advocate Christina Mallon as an incredible mentor. She has helped me use my voice, advocate and educate myself on disability issues, and wield my influence to elevate other disabled people.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Having a motivated and empathetic viewpoint in life has helped me to aim high and want to leave people better than they were before we met. I hope that I have helped other people with disabilities to see that they are deserving of the same opportunities as everyone else.
Can you share “5 things I wish people understood or knew about people with physical limitations” and why.
- My disability is not a limitation, it is an attribute that gives me unique skills and experience.
- Accessible design could change the world. Everyone can use a ramp, but not everyone can use stairs.
- Educate yourself by learning and listening to disabled people. Social media is a powerful tool that opens many doors for thoughtful conversations on disability rights, issues, and culture. I am always learning and a huge fan of Keah Brown, Andraéa LaVant, Rebecca Cokley, Judith Heumann, Jenny Lay-Flurrie, Alice Wong, Imani Barbarin, and Christina Mallon.
- People with disabilities are capable and need to be given the same opportunities as those without disabilities to be trained, succeed, and advance in their careers.
- 1 in 4 people will experience a disability in their working-age years, and when done thoughtfully, accommodations can transform a company’s productivity and retention.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?
“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” — Maya Angelou
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this 🙂
I know I’m aiming high here, but President Obama. He’s an inspiration to my generation and was an incredible advocate for people with disabilities as President. Since leaving office, he’s continued this work, most recently producing the groundbreaking documentary Crip Camp for Netflix about the birth of the modern disability rights movement. I would tell him how much I appreciate his work and advocacy, and make sure to take a quick selfie with him for Instagram.
Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.