Getting To Know Xian Horn

Every October it is National Disability Employment Awareness Month. This year, the Office of Disability Employment Policy has announced the theme for this year as “America’s Recovery: Powered by Inclusion,” reflecting the importance of ensuring that people with disabilities have full access to employment and community involvement during the recovery period from the effects of Covid-19. In honor of National Disability Employment Awareness Month this October, we wanted to take a moment and shine a light on one of our newest New York Tech Alliance board members Xian Horn. Born with Cerebral Palsy, Xian has embraced her disability as a blessing, as it enables her to connect with people from all walks of life, and make contributions to accessibility, mentoring, adaptive fashion, and inclusive representation. Xian is a consultant, motivational speaker, leader, teacher, and more, and we want you to learn more about her, her journey, and how she fights for inclusion for those with disabilities with our newest Getting To Know You blog.

NYTA: What’s The Best Part of Your Job?

Xian: The best part is that I get to meet and speak to people from all walks of life and learn from them. I love that I work in many areas on tech, film, fashion, beauty, inclusion, and so many different things. Working for myself I get to choose what projects and partners I work with, so even though my priority is advocating for the marginalized, the disabled, and women, communities of color… I can also follow the bread crumbs in my path to anything that I find meaningful and anything that feels right. I love the variety of what I get to do, i.e. some highlights from the month ahead are speaking at UN for mental health awareness day, selecting films for the ReelAbilities and the Faces of Hunger Film Festivals, interviewing Gloria Estefan, speaking at Amazon, writing for Architectural Digest and Google Accessibility… being a part of the NY Tech Alliance Board! My work is always so much fun, different, fulfilling and personally and professionally impactful!…It’s never boring and I never know what opportunities are coming next! I love not knowing!

NYTA: What’s One of Your Favorite Failures (A Lesson You Learned the Hard Way but Ended Up Being Super Valuable)?

Xian: This is my favorite question! I’ve been fired, I’ve been rejected, but I don’t believe in “failure” because if you’re still here you haven’t failed. You just haven’t found what belongs to you yet. However, my favorite disappointment is that I pitched the Dove campaign asking them to include people with disabilities in their advertising when I was first starting out. The video went semi-viral and people really supported it, but in the end, Dove never even spoke to me about it. When I realized it wasn’t happening, I was sad but ultimately, it was a gift to me — to think bigger and beyond Dove, to realize that the message that we are all beautiful and deserve to be seen and celebrated, was bigger than one brand. Even though Dove didn’t use it until years later, thanks to the video I was asked to assist in classes at NYU for girls and women with disabilities, ages 14 to 21 and ended up with my own classes there the next semester. I realize that following any dream is worth it even if it doesn’t work out, because it can lead you to your next even better dream

NYTA: What’s the Book You Always Give Out as a Gift and Why

Xian: The Alchemist is gorgeous and universal and Gifts of Imperfection/Daring Greatly by Brene Brown. Both are brilliant and uplifting for different reasons. Both are about purpose and acceptance and love. I teach on “self-esteem” so it seems only right. I also need a reminder myself every day because self-esteem is process, not a destination!

NYTA: What Was the First Concert You Ever Went To?

Xian: Natalie Merchant in Central Park. A fight broke out about whether everyone should sit or stand because when people stood no one could see. The people in the front wanted to stand in front of the people that wanted to sit. Now I think it’s an interesting lesson about inclusion. Natalie heard the ruckus and tried to make everybody happy by standing on an apple cart so more people could see her, saying “Is this better?!” Her voice was so resonant. I love her tone! She sounded even better than the CD live!! The whole thing was epic, dramatic, and perfect.

NYTA: Favorite Movie?

Xian: I can’t pick just one! The Princess Bride, Forest Gump (even though we’d change some things about it if it was made now). I knew all the lines to both as a kid. When Harry Met Sally was the first R-rated movie my mom let me watch as a kid and I had that memorized too. La Strada made me weep, A Quiet Place (and I usually hate horror); The Philadelphia Story with Katherine Hepburn and Carey Grant is a classic, and that’s the closest I can do at picking one movie. You’re welcome!

More about Xian Horn

Xian began her nonprofit Give Beauty Wings’ tailored Self-Esteem programs at NYU’s Initiative for Women with Disabilities in 2011 and has continued teaching ever since. Additionally, as the exemplar for the AT&T NYU Connect Ability Challenge, Xian collaborated with developers to shape accessible technologies. Seeing the importance of collaborative innovation, Xian has worked with the Open Style Lab at Parsons and Anna Sui to create adaptive clothing and walked the runway for Zappos Adaptive for NY Fashion Week in 2020.

Xian has moderated and spoken at the U.N. multiple times such as for International Women’s Day and International Day of Persons with Disabilities, and she has been invited to speak at The Obama White House, Apple, The Harkin Summit, NYC Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, ReelAbilities Film Festival, Columbia University, the ACLU, Microsoft, and more. Xian is a member of the State Department’s Speaker’s Bureau and serves as an advisory member of the U.N. NGO Committee on Education, Learning and Literacy and the Accessibility Advisory Committee for AT&T, Cooper Hewitt, and ReelAbilities Film Festival. She also advises the American Institute of Architects NY on accessibility for upcoming inclusive exhibits.

Xian was named Women’s eNews’ 21 Leaders for the 21st Century, honored in Walker’s Legacy Power 15, National Disability Mentoring Coalition’s Hall of Fame, and was the recipient of the first ever Positive Exposure Rising Leader Award in September of 2021.


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NY Tech Alliance

Our mission at NY Tech Alliance is to foster the technology community and ecosystem in our hometown, with the goal of creating a better future for all.