Luda founded INCLUDAS Publishing in 2015. We are so excited to have her with us!
Tell us about yourself.
I am not someone who gives up easily, and when you fight towards what you want or what is right, it’s empowering in the end. My disability really gave me a perspective and a lens to look out from, so being in a wheelchair, growing up as a kid with a disability, has influenced me and how I persevere.
What is the story of INCLUDAS?
Starting INCLUDAS Publishing has been a very difficult process since I have experience in the entertainment industry versus the publishing industry. Moreover, when I started INCLUDAS in 2013, it was a disability service for college recreational spaces – taken on by a suggestion from someone who worked in collegiate recreation. In 2015 was when the transition began (with a huge learning curve), and I published the first official picture book in 2019. I have always been looking for stories with positive, authentic disability representation and since none existed, I decided to take on the task to make that change happen. Growing up with a disability, many times I found myself creating change and inclusion for myself in the world, so I am used to fighting to be included and valued.
Why are you interested in working in publishing?
Fiction is a beautiful and complex thing. So much of fiction bleeds into our realities, so when media present messages about disability in a certain light, people take those fictional stories and believe them to be real. That is why it is important for publishing and media to have accurate and strong presence of actual disabled people and stories. Burdened with stereotypical messages, I personally found myself creating authentic fictional stories with happy endings and strong leads versus the weak and helpless tropes that are constantly shown in the world. I had to save myself with my stories and I know there are others (especially children) who need stories that are relatable, strong, and positive.
Why is disability diversity in stories important to you?
More awareness brings more acceptance of people who may look or sound different. I want to see more diverse, disabled superheroes or characters for kids because they are at the core of shaping future inclusion. Including fictional disabled characters of any race or gender (etc.) in the kids’ space is so important. I think the more kids are exposed at a young age to disability diversity, the more understanding they’ll have as they grow up, and they’ll be more curious and push forward for change. It also helps kids with disabilities not to feel ashamed or outcasted. I grew up feeling worthless and as a burden, and when I turned to movies and books for strength, all I found were more harmful messages about being disabled.
What’s the most fulfilling part about being on the INCLUDAS team?
Launching this brand so it can change and give a voice to disability representation in an authentic and honest way where it’s not just a trend but where it’s impacting others culturally and making a more inclusive environment is the ultimate reward.
Any advice for those wanting to work in the publishing industry?
Research, research, research! Never stop learning. There are always ways to improve something. Publishing changes all the time, so it’s good to know what’s happening in the industry and how to make things better.