Lily Coltoff was a Communications Fellow in RespectAbility’s National Leadership Program for Spring and Summer 2020. Originally from Philadelphia, Coltoff graduated in December 2019 from American University in Washington, D.C., with a bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies and Public Health. Her decision to pursue these majors came from a passion for writing and science, as well as a desire to make health information more accessible and understandable to everyone.
Born with Neurofibromatosis (NF) type 1, a genetic disorder that causes tumors to grow anywhere on or in the body – in addition to a wide range of other issues – Coltoff has spent a great deal of her life advocating for access for herself as well as for the awareness and understanding of rare conditions. Her first experience in disability advocacy came when she was invited to be a featured interviewee in a promotional video for Camp New Friends – a summer sleepaway camp for children and teenagers with NF. Since then, she has also developed curriculum materials for the REACH for NF program at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, which helps prepare youth with special healthcare needs for a successful transition into adulthood; organized American University Hillel’s first-ever Disability Inclusion Shabbat; and wrote and published several op-eds about disability advocacy and intersectionality.
Coltoff first became aware of RespectAbility and the incredible work it does at Jewish Disability Advocacy Day in 2017. She hopes to gain from the Fellowship program a greater degree of understanding of the issues currently faced by the disability community – particularly in terms of policy and politics – as well as to continue to improve her writing as relates to topics of science and health. After the Fellowship program, she hopes to secure a job as a science writer, potentially at a government agency or news organization, disseminating health information to the public in an understandable way. She recently had her first journal article published and looks forward to having many more writing credits to her name.