As a leader in the disability community, in government and in the not-for-profit world, Susan is a powerful role model for independent living, for the disability community and for women with and without disabilities. She may be best known for her work designing, implementing and then directing Access-A-Ride, the citywide para-transit program for people with disabilities, for the New York City Department of Transportation.
After the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, when lower Manhattan was isolated, Susan, at that time executive director of the Center for Independence of the Disabled, New York (CIDNY) led the coordination of services for people with disabilities who were affected by the attacks. Susan and CIDNY became a leading source of information on disability issues for the many private and public entities participating in the massive response and recovery effort.
Susan then brought her talents to Columbia University as its Director of Disability Services, where she worked against institutional resistance to create new opportunities for more than 600 students, making sure the school evaluated students and provided any necessary accommodations.
Susan also played a crucial role in creating Disabilities Network of New York City (DNNYC), intended to unite the disability community and to advocate for civil rights. She still serves as its board president. The DNNYC listserv is used by thousands of subscribers as a source of information about everything from jobs to rallies. She has served on the board of New Yorkers for Patient & Family Empowerment and chaired the Human Services Committee for Community Board 3, an appointed voluntary City of New York government board.
Susan returned to government service as associate director of policy for three successive city comptrollers. Aside from disability issues, she wrote in-depth policy reports and advised the comptroller on education, health care, emergency response, financial security, housing, and disability issues. But Susan, as always, brought a disability perspective to all her research.
In March 2017, Susan became CEO of NYC’s Institute for Career Development, where she works today helping individuals with a wide range of disabilities achieve competitive employment and advance on their career path. In her short tenure at ICD, she has started a new program, the AbillTy Academy, which, in partnership with the Mayor’s Office of People with Disabilities, trains people with disabilities for careers in cybersecurity. She also is on the State Rehabilitation Council, which advises ACCES-VR.
Susan is a recipient of numerous awards for her disability-related advocacy work, including the Alfred P. Sloan Public Service Award for her leadership in creating Access-A-Ride. This award is given annually to “outstanding civil servants whose work performance and commitment to the public transcend not merely the ordinary but the extraordinary — day after day and year after year,” according to the Fund for the City of New York, the award’s sponsor.
Susan’s early work on Access-A-Ride may be her greatest legacy, but it hasn’t ended there. Because of her leadership and advocacy, New Yorkers with disabilities now can travel more easily, communicate more effectively and access a broader range of job training options.
To watch Susan's award acceptance speech, click the video below: