Class of 2024
Zandy Wong ’24, dedicates much of her time to disability advocacy work, both on and off the JHU campus. She was recently named a 2022 Clinton Global Initiative University Scholar by the Clinton Foundation for advancing global digital accessibility in youth spaces. We asked Zandy about her work:
1. Could you explain what activities you’ve been involved in?
My disability advocacy focuses on advocating for universal digital accessibility and equitable access to education and healthcare for people with disabilities through influencing policy and working within communities to enact change. Within the policy sphere, I advise the Department of Labor on creating policies to help disabled youth transition into higher education and workplace environments as a CAPE-Youth Working Group member. I am the founder of the NextGen Accessibility Initiative where I partner with Gen Z organizations to make their digital content fully accessible for disabled youth. My work to improve digital accessibility within the NextGen Accessibility Initiative has helped over 61,000 youth in 119 countries have access to accessible educational content. At the university level, I am an active member of the Asian-Americans with Disabilities Initiative and the Hopkins Advocates for Disability Awareness. Lastly, I share my story of growing up with hearing loss on the TEDx stage, podcasts, and industry panels to encourage acceptance and inclusion of people with disabilities.
2. What motivates you to pursue this work?
With my advocacy, I am trying to help create the world that younger “me” dreamed of when dealing with challenges related to my hearing loss – a world where accessibility is universal and having a disability is celebrated. With my accessibility work, I hope to shatter the norm that accessibility isn’t just a bonus or an extra, it is necessary for building inclusive communities.
3. How have you incorporated your passion into your coursework or research pursuits?
My research is directly informed by my disability advocacy and my lived experiences as a youth with hearing loss. I research at the intersection of public health and neuroscience to ensure better hearing healthcare through joint projects within the Hopkins School of Medicine and the Bloomberg School of Public Health as a Johns Hopkins Neuroscience Scholar.
While I haven’t taken a class directly focused on disability, I’ve centered disability in projects for my public health and history classes where I’ve explored topics including the mental health crisis in rural America and how the digital health response to the COVID pandemic has been inaccessible for people with disabilities.
4. As a Public Health Studies major, do you think of disability rights as a public health issue? How so?
Disability rights is a public health issue. Over 25% of Americans have a disability. Yet, disability isn’t often included in the conversation in advancing equity. It is hard to navigate the healthcare system with a disability because accessing long-term care often comes with a huge financial burden. Housing and transportation systems are often inaccessible towards people with disabilities because of policies created without input from the disability community. Lastly, people with disabilities are often seen as disposable especially with the government’s response to COVID.
4. Congratulations on your recent acceptance into the 2022 Clinton Global Initiative University cohort! Could you explain to us what this award is and what it means for you?
Last Friday, I was named a 2022 Clinton Global Initiative University Scholar by the Clinton Foundation in recognition of my work in advancing global digital accessibility in youth spaces! The Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) is a highly-selective leadership development program held by the Clinton Foundation that recognizes youth change makers who are tackling global issues through innovative projects. As a CGI U Scholar, I was invited to attend the 2022 Clinton Global Initiative University Summit to meet the Clinton family and other global leaders. I also gained access to mentorship and funding through the Clinton Foundation to continue advancing my work.
This award reaffirms that my work in advancing digital accessibility matters and that I’m on the right track. With this award, I hope to continue expanding the NextGen Accessibility Initiative beyond just helping Gen Z educational/advocacy organizations to work within existing educational and governmental systems to advance digital accessibility.
5. Any plans or goals moving forward that you’d like to share?
I will be interning this summer in the US Congress as a legislative intern for Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA). . I am excited for the opportunity to continue advocating for equitable health and technologies policies at the center of where legislation is created!