Affinity Groups at the Library: Former West Valley Page Mavey Ma

Affinity Groups at the Library help to fulfill the promise promoted on our website: "You Belong."  In this series, we will learn about the different Affinity Groups within the Library.  They are working on projects to ensure that "You Belong."

I was privileged to meet Page Mavey Ma, who worked at West Valley Branch Library

Mavey shared her lived experiences joining the world of disability advocacy as an adult returning to graduate school.  

As an aspiring librarian, she has been a vocal advocate for the Disability Access Committee and Asian and Pacific Islanders Affinity Group.

Members of the Library's Disability Access Committee and Affinity Groups all share one characteristic:  a passion for representing different groups under the Library's "We Belong" promise.  I have found members to be filled with an earnest desire to see that everyone has a voice and a place in our society.

Following, I conducted an interview with her.  Please read her italicized responses to my questions; she has a powerful voice.

Interview with Mavey Ma

Tell me a little bit about yourself

Hello! My name is Mavey Ma and I am a graduate student pursuing my Master of Library and Information Science because I want to become a public librarian!

I love my part-time job at San Jose Public Library where I get to connect in-person with diverse community members and co-workers every day for the past few years.

In 2022, I joined the disability community as a self-advocate. In general, I think disability issues impact everyone, whether they are affected temporarily, suddenly, or eventually.

I became involved with the nonprofit organization Asians and Pacific Islanders with Disabilities of California (APIDC) in Spring 2023 through their program Youth Leadership Institute (YLI). Originating in 1999 by Patricia Kinaga, APIDC is a nonprofit and affinity group “dedicated to giving a voice and face to Asians and Pacific Islanders (APIs) with physical, mental and developmental disabilities” (APIDC, n.d.-a).

Why do you think your advocacy is so important?  What is its purpose?

APIDC’s YLI connected me with a community of peers and mentors in the disability community. I learned advocacy and public speaking skills, and gained precious wisdom from wonderful Asian American leaders in professional sectors of law, education, finance, entertainment, and more.

Through APIDC’s YLI 4-week grassroots leadership development program, I got to engage in discussions with over a dozen speakers that imparted education and wisdom. For example, we learned about disability civil rights from Hector Ochoa, the Regional Director for the Southern California Resource Services for Independent Living. I felt amazed to hear how he had filed a lawsuit against the City of Long Beach, and won. Ochoa taught us about Ed Roberts, an activist whose advocacy in the 1960s led to UC Berkeley being one of the first higher education institutions in the U.S. to begin accommodating students with disabilities.

APIDC YLI put into perspective for me that the Americans with Disabilities Act, or the ADA, is just 33 years old as of 2023. When I think about how there exists less than a lifetime of disability law and disability research, it makes sense to me there is still room for institutions of power to grow more trauma-informed and inclusive to all in the diverse disability community.

How would you encourage library customers to seek more information about your advocacy?  How has your advocacy enriched the lives of others?

In my experience, APIDC YLI is a great place for late-diagnosed college students seeking a safe space for mutual sharing and learning with peers and mentors.

The mentors I met amazed me with their generosity; they want to pass on invaluable skills to the next generation of activists and leaders in the realm of disability advocacy. For example, they seemed eager to share their experiences around starting an organization, advocating for change, building a career in the disability field, and fostering personal growth through introspection. APIDC YLI is a great place to find mentors who are eager to share their colorful life journey and professional expertise in career changes and career building.

Students of all ethnicities who have a passion for empowering APIs with disabilities are welcome to join APIDC’s YLI. I enjoyed connecting with a Spanish-speaking APIDC YLI student this year because I grew up with a Spanish-speaking family, too. I would love to see more Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander students join the YLI table as well.

A huge reason for my success and retention in graduate school is that I was able to find other students in the disability community.

According to APIDC Research Director Dr. Peter J. Wong (2012), “approximately 12% of the Asian American population of 14.6 million has a disability.” APIDC strives to elevate and sow into the needs of APIs with disabilities through community-building, education, and networking. APIs with disabilities are the “invisible minority within the invisible minority” (Wong, 2012). Every year, APIDC trains and mentors a new cohort of young adults each year to emerge as leaders in disability advocacy and justice (APIDC, n.d.-b).

What led to your involvement with your advocacy?

Before APIDC’s YLI, I joined the disability community feeling isolated and lost, with little context for what support was available for me after receiving a diagnosis. I thought returning to graduate school with a diagnosis would be enough to access a suite of support from student disability services.

I knew next to nothing about the disability world, but I had high hopes. I had assumed that because I see things like handicapped parking spots, signs with braille, a whole department dedicated to disability services on campus, and city-wide statements of diversity, equity, and inclusion…well, I ignorantly imagined I would find myself well-taken care of when I sought out disability services.

In reality, acquiring and sustaining accommodations in college requires immense resources in regards to time, money, and sheer persistence. I found this to be especially true for invisible disabilities, and I learned from experience how some diagnoses seem more readily accommodated than others.

Thanks to APIDC’s YLI, I met more college students in the disability community. Since 2022, I have built a peer-support system both locally and virtually with other college students. Overall, this leadership program grew my confidence and resilience in disability advocacy and outreach.

The benefits of YLI seeped into many areas of my life. I acquired better services. I acquired some accommodations at school (that still require additional resources from me to sustain it each semester, but it’s worth celebrating the progress). It took over a year to get here.

My experience participating in the Equity & Inclusion Services Unit at SJPL has been amazing as well, and I encourage more library staff of all classifications to check out a meeting once a month. I had great experiences working with SJPL’s Trauma Informed and Resilience Oriented Care Team, the Racial Equity Team, the Asian & Pacific Islander Affinity Group, and the Disabilities Access Committee. I appreciate how our San Jose Public Library leadership invests into building an infrastructure of inclusivity for the library community and the library staff. My experiences at the library encouraged me to take the leap into APIDC YLI, and has enriched my life and helped me foster lifelong learning.

Feel validated by the research world here:

  • Dwyer, P., Mineo, E., Mifsud, K., Lindholm, C., Gurba, A., & Waisman, T. (2023). Building neurodiversity-inclusive postsecondary campuses: Recommendations for leaders in higher education. Autism in Adulthood, 5(1), 1-14.
  • Hamilton, L. G., & Petty, S. (2023). Compassionate pedagogy for neurodiversity in higher education: A conceptual analysis. Frontiers in Psychology, 14.
  • Koontz, A., Duvall, J., Johnson, R., Reissman, T., & Smith, E. (2022). “Nothing about us without us:” Engaging at users in at research. Assistive Technology, 34(5), 499–500.
  • Mellifont, D. (2023). Ableist ivory towers: A narrative review informing about the lived experiences of neurodivergent staff in contemporary higher education. Disability & Society, 38(5) 865–886.
  • Pionke, J. (2019). The impact of disbelief: On being a library employee with a disability. Library Trends, 67(3), 423-435.
  • Tumlin, Z. (2019). “This is a quiet library, except when it’s not:” On the lack of neurodiversity awareness in librarianship. Music Reference Services Quarterly, 22(1–2), 3–17.


Please let me know if you have any questions for Mavey in the section below!