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MAKERS Moment

A Given

A Given

More From Susan

In this video

Sygall discusses her thoughts on feminism, the women's movement and how she identifies with it.

Q&A #2

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Susan Sygall - "A Given"

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I consider myself a feminist. And when I grew up, the feminist movement was about women having the same rights as everybody else. A given. It doesn't seem any more heated or complicated than that. And if you believe that women should have the same rights and the same opportunities as everybody else, and obviously disabled women being part of that movement, it doesn't really matter if you call yourself a feminist or don't call yourself a feminist. If you believe that notion, that's what's really important. But, for me, it was always of course.

Susan's Biography

Response to failure Melt dark chocolate and eat it.

Three words to describe herself Loud, proud, passionate

Family history Sygall is a first generation American. Her father was born in Russia and, though he didn’t finish high school, he taught himself nine different languages. Her mother, a world champion figure skater, came from Austria.

 

Susan Sygall’s work has transformed international exchange and global development for people with disabilities. Sygall became a wheelchair rider after a car accident at age 18, while she was studying recreational therapy in college. When she studied abroad in Australia, Sygall noticed she was unusual: there were very few disabled people on her trip. She wanted to activate people around the world to advocate for themselves and get access to all activities and exchange programs. In 1981 she started Mobility International USA, a non-profit organization working to advance the rights of people with disabilities globally. Mobility International also focuses on empowering women through the Women’s Institute on Leadership and Disability. Before Mobility International, Sygall co-founded the Berkeley Outreach Recreation Program at the University of California, Berkeley, focused on improving access to recreation and sports for people with disabilities.

In 1995, Sygall influenced the U.S. Congress to establish funds that created the National Clearinghouse on Disability and Exchange, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. The Clearinghouse aims to increase the participation of people with disabilities in all types of travel.

Sygall has been awarded a MacArthur Fellowship, the Kellogg National Fellowship, and the Ashoka Fellowship for her dedicated advocacy for disability rights. In 1995, President Bill Clinton awarded her the President’s Award for her leadership in international exchange programs and global empowerment for people with disabilities.