WATCH NOW: Abilities Zone Podcast Launches with Jennifer Kumiyama of Disney's WISH

Buckle up, folks, we've got a podcast. Introducing…drum roll, please…the Abilities Zone with Paul Amadeus Lane, featuring none other than the incredible Jennifer Kumiyama!

This talented woman is ALL the things... singer, actor, disability advocate, former Ms. Wheelchair California, current Accessibility Coordinator for the City of Long Beach and more. Have you seen Disney's hit animated film, Wish? Jennifer stars as Dahlia, the bold, caring, crutch-using best friend of the movie's lead character. And she has all the merch to prove it.

Jennifer Kumiyama smiles from her power chair next to and her crutch-using character from Disney's Wish, Dahlia.

I Don't Want to Be the First, I Want to Be the First of Many

Jennifer's story is one of perseverance, self-advocacy and belief in herself as she relentlessly chases her dreams. But she is not only pursuing her own passions, she is also paving the way for others with disabilities to succeed.

Not only can you tune into this feel-good, must-watch interview right now, you can also meet Jennifer in person on March 16th at 4pm at Abilities Expo Los Angeles.

Catch the Abilities Zone here or onon SoundCLoudSpotifyiHeartPodcastsAmazon MusicApple PodcastsAmazon Fire TV or wherever you enjoy podcasts.

Jennifer's Story: We Can Do Anything

By Jennifer Kumiyama
Now, I know that when most people see US (the disability community), there is an assumption that our disability is probably the worst thing that exists in our lives. I don't, or ever will, speak for others but for me—this couldn't be farther from the truth.

Jennifer Kumiyama is working in the recording studio, voicing her character from Disney's Wish, Dahlia.

I am the oldest child of six, and the only one with a physical disability. Even though I knew I was different, at home, I wasn't made to feel that I actually was. My parents held me to a very high standard and the motto was 'you all either sink or swim together.' This meant that as the eldest, I was responsible for the actions of my siblings and vice versa. I was assigned chores, as all us children were, and always conducted the first inspection, before Mom or Dad came in to do theirs.

I come from a sports family. From soccer, hockey, basketball and softball—someone always had a game. From a very young age, I knew I really wanted to be an animated Disney character. My Aunt Gale took me to see the Little Mermaid. I was hooked. I learned the songs from the cassette tape my grandma Fran and Poppa Joe bought me and, when the VHS came out, I studied Ariel, and I mean…studied her.

By my sophomore year in high school my already blended family was experiencing some of the most difficult times we'd yet to face—gang violence, drug abuse, physical and emotional abuse and, to top it all off, our parents' marriage was facing the end of its run. I drowned my depression in anything that allowed me the space to sing, act or just simply be creative. I felt the burden of being the oldest child—setting the example for my younger siblings to follow. With everything going on in our house, that used to be a home, it became more and more apparent to me that in order for me to pursue and be successful at anything in life, that I would need to leave home.

Funko Pop doll of glasses-wearing, crutch-using Dahlia, both in and out of the Funko Pop box.

Looking back, it was the best decision I could've made for myself, and for my siblings. From productions like Aladdin; a Musical Spectacular, to films like The Sessions and even television's Undercover Boss: Celebrity Edition—I achieved my wildest dreams and more.

Last November, the world got to see my 8-year-old self's WISH come true. WISH premiered in theaters worldwide. I voiced the character "Dahlia," Asha's best friend, the town baker and the unofficial leader of their friend group. Dahlia has a visible disability and walks with a cane and what I love most about her is that she is strong, confident and super sassy.

If I could tell 8-year-old me anything right now, I'd tell her to keep holding on to all of her wishes, because sometimes, they just come true.

This one is for all the little, chubby, brown 8-year-olds in wheelchairs with larger than life wishes that they think may never come true. Hold on to those wishes—we can do anything!

Eight animated main characters of Disney’s Wish along with the Wish star and the words: Hanging with my Besties

Abilities Zone Podcast Highlights Standouts in the Disability Community

Be sure to follow the Abilities Zone on your favorite podcast channel so you never miss a new episode.

Our host and Abilities Expo Ambassador Paul Amadeus Lane will explore remarkable stories, personalities and experiences within the wildly diverse disability community. These impressive individuals will share their unique perspectives, tales of the obstacles they've conquered and the
invaluable insights they've gained along their journeys.

Wait until you see who is next in the Abilities Zone line-up!

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