Peer Ally & Ex Officio Council Members

Stephanie orlando smiling at camera

Stephanie Orlando

Chief Operations Officer, Western New York Independent Living, Inc.

Pronouns: She/Her


Stephanie Orlando is a Peer Ally to the Youth Movement who started her career in 1998 as a Youth Peer Advocate in Buffalo NY.  In 1999, Stephanie started her work on a statewide level with a four-year term as a member and Chairperson of the Youth Advisory Council to the New York State Office of Mental Health (OMH). Stephanie is a Founder and former Director of YOUTH POWER! of Families Together in New York State where she worked from 2005 to 2017.

Beginning her career on a national level in 2005, Stephanie served as a member of the Youth Advisory Committee (YAC) to the National Council on Disability. She served on the YAC through 2007 with a 1 year term as President. Stephanie was a member of the National Youth Leadership Network for 7 years, serving as a curriculum developer and member of the Outreach Workgroup. In 2012 Stephanie was appointed by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the US Senate to the National Council on Disability (NCD) for a term of April 2012 to November 2014. She served on the Executive Committee of NCD as the Chairperson of the Governance and Planning Committee. 

In 2015, Stephanie was a co-author of the New York State OMH Home and Community Based Waiver Youth Peer Advocacy Training Curriculum with Jutta Dotterweich of Cornell University. Stephanie has received awards for her work from the Erie County Executive, Mental Health America, National Council on Independent Living, and the Mental Health Association of New York State. Stephanie is currently the Chief Operations Officer for Western New York Independent Living Family of Agencies. She serves as a subject matter expert for youth-guided practices, youth peer advocacy, cross-systems youth engagement, and self-determination for youth with disabilities.

Emily Ladau

Communications Consultant, Writer, Speaker, Disability Rights Activist

Pronouns: She/Her


Emily Ladau is a passionate disability rights activist, writer, storyteller, and digital communications consultant whose career began at the age of 10, when she appeared on several episodes of Sesame Street to educate children about her life with a physical disability. A native of Long Island, New York, Emily graduated with a B.A. in English from Adelphi University in 2013 and now serves on their Board of Trustees. In 2017, she was named as one of Adelphi’s 10 Under 10 Young Alumni. In 2018, she was awarded the Paul G. Hearne Emerging Leader Award from the American Association of People with Disabilities.

Emily is the Editor in Chief of the Rooted in Rights Blog, a platform dedicated to amplifying authentic narratives on the disability experience through an intersectional lens. She also provides communications and social media strategy consulting as well as editorial services for multiple disability-related organizations and initiatives. And, she co-hosts “The Accessible Stall Podcast,” a show that dives into disability issues.

Emily’s writing has been published in outlets including The New York Times, SELF, Salon, Vice, and HuffPost and she has served as a source for outlets including NPR, Vox, and Washington Post. Her first book, Demystifying Disability, is being published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House, in fall 2021. Emily has spoken before numerous audiences, from the U.S. Department of Education to the United Nations. Central to all of her work is a focus on and harnessing the power of storytelling as a tool for people to become engaged in disability and social justice issues. More about Emily’s work can be found on her website, WordsIWheelBy.com