According to people who know Susan Daniels and had worked with,her, said everything that Daniels has done throughout her life has been with the goal of improving the lives of people with disabilities. That life ended Oct. 28 at age 62.
An extraordinary longtime national and international disability rights advocate, Daniels’ many accomplishments on behalf of people with disabilities include, while as Deputy Commissioner for Disability and Income Security Programs of the Social Security Administration (SSA), laying the foundation for the landmark Ticket to Work and Work Incentive Improvement Act. She was also one of the three founding members of the National Association for Benefits and Work Incentives Practitioners.
Daniels was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, and contracted polio at six months of age. Her parents insisted she be mainstreamed as a student. She went on to graduate summa cum laude from Marquette University, before campuses were accessible. Daniels then received her Masters of Psychology from Mississippi State University and her Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of North Carolina.
As Chair of the Department of Rehabilitation Counseling at the Louisiana State University Medical Center, early in her career, Daniels developed a program to train individuals working with people with intellectual disabilities in community-based settings, which subsequently was a core element in that state’s deinstitutionalization efforts.
During this same period, she coauthored Who Cares: A Handbook on Sexuality and People with Disabilities, the first book ever published in the U.S. on disability and sexuality.
But perhaps her greatest accomplishment is the Ticket to Work and Work Incentive Improvement Act (TWWIIA). As Deputy Commissioner for Disability and Income Security Programs of SSA, where she directed programs that serve more than 11 million people with disabilities, she laid the groundwork for TWWIIA. This legislation creates employment incentives for people with disabilities and removes the systemic barriers that have placed too many of this country’s citizens with disabilities in the position of having to choose between health coverage and work.
Just days after receiving the Minnesota State Council on Disability’s highest honors, activist Tom Lijewski passed away at age 60. The Minneapolis resident had ALS.
Lijewski was honored earlier this fall with the Minnesota Award, MSCOD’s highest honor to a Minnesotan with a disability who has worked to enhance the empowerment and employment of individuals with disabilities.
Lijewski was honored for outstanding achievements in the world of work and for his significant contributions that increase public awareness of Minnesotans with disabilities. Among Lijewski’s many accomplishments are as a radio and television personality, politician, business owner, disability rights and access visionary, shaper of public policy and transportation pioneer. And all of these incarnations of his life have been fueled by his desire to enhance the livesof those with disabilities, to the end that they might chart their own destinies. Even when he was in the final stages of ALS, he was teaching others to use assistive technology.
Lijewski was preceded in death by parents, Edward and Lorraine, and one sister, Adrienne. He is survived by wife, Cheryl; brothers, Ed (Linda), Mike (Rita), Tim (Kathy), and Terry (Susan); sisters, Cookie (Bill), Anne (Rodney), and Lolly (Brook); sister- inlaw, Sandra White (Lynn) and many other nieces, nephews and friends. Services were held Oct. 8 at the Cremation Society of Minnesota—Edina Chapel. Memorials preferred to “jthomaslijewski” family in c/o Cheryl Pfeifer.
Anyone wanting to read more about his life can go to the Tom Lijewski site on CaringBridge, to follow his journey with ALS for the past 2 years. www. caringbridge.org/visit/jthomaslijewski