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Disability Empowerment for Yale (DEFY) is Yale’s only undergraduate advocacy and affinity organization for students with disabilities. We work on behalf of the hundreds of students navigating their time at this University with a disability. Our membership includes Yalies with physical disabilities, mental illnesses, chronic illnesses, temporary disabilities, sensory disabilities, addictions & substance dependencies, and learning disabilities, and New Haven community members with these disabilities. 

DEFY’s vision is to make Yale more accessible and welcoming to students with disabilities, both physical and mental, chronic and temporary.

Primary Goals

Start a Conversation: Bring to light the issues surrounding disability to empower students, faculty, and staff to understand what it means to live and learn with a disability at Yale and to make this community more inclusive.

Foster a Community: Develop a robust, intersectional coalition of disabled people and allies to advocate for the disabled community, create networks of support, host events, facilitate conversations, and invite experts and advocates to campus to raise awareness.

DEFY is fighting for

  • An equitable University response to the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Greater accessibility in Yale coursework, dining, transit, health services & extracurricular activities 
  • An academic program for Disability Studies
  • A cultural center for students with disabilities which uplifts the voices of our community, hosts disability-related initiatives and events, and furthers the social model of disability
  • Improved resources for students with disabilities
  • The continued success of the newly imagined DPMP and the pilot Disability Peer Liaison (PL) Program

Sign up to receive emails from DEFY here or by emailing Communications Director Martine Cruz at martine.cruz@yale.edu.  To join our Slack workspace, where members share resources & support and communicate more regularly about the status of advocacy projects, click here.


April 20, 2021
The YDN’s Lucy Hodgman writes on the announcement of DEFY’s successful advocacy to get the Disability Peer Mentor Program funded and institutionalized. Starting...
February 25, 2021
“On vaccine roll-out, it’s not so simple” published in the New Haven Register by DEFY Vice President Joaquín Lara Midkiff in response to  Gov. Lamont’s changes to...
February 25, 2021
Steuer Ingall’s “Connecticut’s Vaccine Rollout is Discriminatory” appeared in the Yale Herald this week and breaksdown why, against the assessmnet of others like...