Translating Rights and Opportunities

Translating Rights and Opportunities

More From Susan

In this video

Susan Sygall talks about bringing disabled people from other countries to the US to see what's possible for disabled women in terms of health, political rights, and opportunities and take those learnings back to their countries.

Screen Reader Q&A #4


Susan Sygall - "Break Down Preconceived Notions"


And we also are interested to bring disabled people from other countries to the United States to break down preconceived notions of what's possible. So we just had a group of 21 women from 21 different countries come from our women's leadership program. And we're talking about, how do disabled women not get HIV and AIDS, how do you prevent violence against disabled women, how do people with disabilities-- in this case, it was women-- pass legislations?


And if you can imagine this group of people-- we're sometimes translating in English. We're translating in sign language. We also use what we call Certified Deaf Interpreters. So a woman from Nigeria who's deaf doesn't speak American Sign Language, so we're translating from American Sign Language to deaf culture universal sign language. So you have all these cultures, all these languages. But the idea is that women with disabilities get the same rights and the same opportunities all over the world as non-disabled women.


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.