The Lurie Institute for Disability Policy

Sydney Pickern

Sydney Pickern

Sydney “Syd” Pickern (she, they) excitedly joined the Lurie Institute in February 2023 as a Senior Research Associate to advance access to health, housing, and climate justice for multiply-marginalized disabled people across the country.

Syd is a disability rights attorney and advocate at heart, firmly believing in the power of community organizing, mutual aid, and fulfilling the promise of Olmstead. Their legal career fortuitously began with the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF) in the fall of 2016 as an Equal Justice Works Fellow, where they designed and implemented a two-year project committed to improving access to healthcare and health outcomes for disabled people of color in Alameda County. Syd continued her advocacy journey as a staff attorney with DREDF for three additional years, where she managed multiple large, state-funded housing grants and developed a passion and knowledge for expanding access to housing for unhoused disabled people and accessible disaster response. In this capacity, they worked on disability access in homeless shelters, emergency shelters, affordable, accessible housing, planned power outages, and wildfire events.

Syd joined the California Foundation for Independent Living Centers in the summer of 2021 as the Disability Disaster Manager of the statewide Disability Disaster Access and Resources program, a first of its kind emergency-response program utilizing a network of 19 Independent Living Centers across the state to assist the disability community before, during, and after disasters.

Syd has a significant physical disability, she is a wheelchair user, and she graduated cum laude from California Western School of Law in 2014. As a volunteer attorney at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, Syd worked to help break down the school-to-prison pipeline, assisting in the design and initial implementation of the Education Advocacy Project. As a judicial extern for the United States District Magistrate Judge Karen Crawford, they worked on habeas corpus petitions and gained vast insight into the inequities of the criminal justice system. Syd is committed to pushing disability civil rights and policies to new levels and to centering the margins in disability civil rights advocacy. They are also passionate about the Black Lives Matter movement, prison abolition, the Land Back movement, LGBTQIA rights, and reproductive justice. In her spare time, she enjoys playing with her giant emotional support poodle Mervin, swimming and floating, watching science-fiction television, attending live music, and providing mutual aid in her community.