Ola Ojewumi


“Employers, build workplaces that are more accommodating and be willing to give people with disabilities a fair shot -- they might surprise you. From Franklin Roosevelt to Frida Kahlo, people with disabilities have changed and are actively changing the world.

I've learned that the label of disability is rarely something you're born with. Too often, it's something that other people decide for you. Though I sometimes feel the burden of my existence, I will not be bound by the limitations set before me, by those of my body or by those of this world.

I will continue to tell the world that when you lessen the opportunities and expectations of young people, their disability is not what's crippling them. You are.”


by Ola Ojewumi

August 12, 2011

“In response to this issue, members of the Council on Women & Girls and other White House staff held a briefing on the importance of mentorship in the lives of young girls. This briefing featured a dialogue between six female Administration staffers and a local DC area youth mentoring group, the Lovely Ladies of Laurel Mentoring Group(LLOL Mentoring).

LLOL Mentoring was created by Eisenhower Middle School special education teacher, Celeste Hill. In 2009, Hill wanted to build a safe space for teenage girls to thrive after a troubled student she taught committed suicide at the age of 13. LLOL has since changed the lives of over 138 girls from low-income areas and underperforming schools. This program provides after-school mentoring and tutoring to girls in addition to preparing students for college.  

Mentorship affords young girls the opportunity to create a brighter future for themselves and their peers. When a child is given the chance to succeed academically and socially, they begin to thrive in a remarkable manner. As a mentor, I’ve learned that when you give a young girl the tools to shape her future through public service, she then begins to believe that she can change the world.”


by Ola Ojewumi

September 5, 2014

“Like many in attendance, I thought the conference would be a 1-2-3 guide on how to become a CEO in less than ten years. Little did I know that I was participating in a life changing movement to show girls that there is more to life than an endless quest to be perfect. This is a disease infecting and slowly breaking all of us. This event did not showcase individuals that overcame the impossible to stand before us as pristine and heroic people.

Contrarily, we were allowed to see the cracks in an otherwise polished armor that we all put up to shield the world from who we really are (which is both strong and fragile human beings). College sophomore Stella Oduro participated in the summit upon the invitation of her former middle school teacher. She now chooses to live a brave life by, “[learning] to be comfortable in my own skin.

I learned to smile and say to myself that no matter how little or big thing that accomplish today, I tried my best and that is enough to smile about. Most importantly, celebrate my achievements and become my best advocate and cheerleader.”


by Ola Ojewumi

November 16, 2016

“Reflecting on how this happened, I don’t buy the argument that Trump won because he symbolized change or provided a voice to working-class Whites who felt abandoned by the political system. America has a sordid history of using the political stage to scapegoat immigrants and people of color for its problems. A vote for this billionaire was not a vote against poverty.

till, I am proud to be an American – no less so today than I was two weeks ago. This nation has given me, the daughter of African immigrants, the chance to live her dreams (and to live at all) in a country where opportunity is endless. But hear me loud and clear: I am one of millions of people of color and people with disabilities whose lives will forever be changed by our decision to elect Donald Trump.

In middle school, I survived a life-saving heart and kidney transplant. My family promptly received a $1 million medical bill in the mail. Enter: The Affordable Care Act, enacted in 2010 to prevent families like mine from facing bankruptcy as a result of unexpected medical diagnoses. I spent college fearful that I would be booted from my parents’ health insurance, but then Obamacare came along, instigating new healthcare policies that keep me alive to this day.”

“Beyoncé may not be a wheelchair user, but she sure did have to overcome prejudice as a Black woman in order to become one of the world’s most powerful recording artists. Her inimitable music reminds me never to give up when met with inequality and challenges.

Our fight for disability rights is your fight too, so I encourage all hiring managers and professionals to advocate for inclusive hiring. It’s simple. Just use these lyrics as your guide:

"When you hurt me, you hurt yourself. Don't hurt yourself" —“Don’t Hurt Yourself,” Lemonade, 2016

The reality is that a number of businesses aren’t trying hard enough to be inclusive. Even if your company has a diversity program, it may fail to address all marginalized groups, including those with disabilities. Recent researchdemonstrates that hiring people with disabilities not only increases diversity but also leads to higher retention rates, increased productivity, boosts in employee morale, and reduction in the cost of training and workman’s compensation. Bottom line: When you fail to hire us, you’re hurting your business as well.

“Let me upgrade you.” —“Upgrade U,” B’Day, 2006

Make sure you have the right accommodations in place to make everyone feel welcome and comfortable in your workplace. One way to do this is to hire accommodations professionals. They are familiar with laws and regulations surrounding employees with disabilities, and they will teach staff the dos and don’ts (like asking inappropriate interview questions or treating accommodations as preferential when, in fact, they’re based on need).”


by Ola Ojewumi

November 7, 2018

I remind myself that God didn’t make a mistake on me.

I can't tell you how many sisters have tried to pray away my disability. This pity contributes to the sense of worthlessness I’ve felt at some points, because when people constantly send the message that you're “less than,” it's difficult not to begin believing it. But God didn’t make a mistake on me. I don’t need to be repaired or fixed. Reminding myself that I’m whole helps me counteract those feelings.

I tell myself that there is a beauty in disability, not in spite of it.

Too many men have seen me and exclaimed, “Damn girl, you’re too pretty to be in a wheelchair!” This isn’t flattering. It’s telling me my wheelchair should make me less desirable, which couldn’t be further from the truth.

Similarly, a former boss once thought he was paying me a compliment by saying, “You’re not disabled.” My response? “That is not up to you to decide.” It’s not only that there’s nothing wrong with being disabled—I’m proud of it, too.

Saying I'm proud to be disabled is usually met with shock, confusion, and opposition. But we disabled black women owe it to ourselves to recognize our greatness, even if the world doesn’t.