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Why Wouldn't We?

Why Wouldn't We?

More From Susan

In this video

Susan Sygall talks about hitchhiking with another women in a wheelchair through New Zealand.

Screen Reader Q&A #5


Susan Sygall - "I Hitchhiked Through New Zealand"


When I studied in Australia for awhile, I had six weeks off, and I hitchhiked through New Zealand for six weeks with another person also happened to be in a wheelchair. We never thought like, oh, isn't this going to be incredible? We're going to hitchhike-- two people in wheelchairs-- through New Zealand. It was like at that time, when people took a break, people were hitchhiking through New Zealand.


So why wouldn't we do that? It just was doing what we want to do just like everybody else. And actually, we had a great time, and stayed in different people's homes for six weeks. But it was unusual, but it wasn't unusual for me, and it wasn't unusual for us.  


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.