Sydney Pickern

  • Hosted by Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund
  • Sponsored by Pfizer Inc.
  • Service location Berkeley, California
  • Law school California Western School of Law
  • Issue area Disability Rights
  • Fellowship class year 2016
  • Program Design-Your-Own Fellowship

The Project

Pioneer disability access “best practices” at the neglected intersection of health, benefits and legal aid systems to improve health outcomes for low-income people with disabilities in Alameda County.

Millions of low-income people with disabilities obtain critical health care, cash, and housing benefits through government programs. They also turn to legal aid programs for access to justice. Within these systems, skilled health care providers, benefits specialists, and legal aid lawyers work diligently to serve clients with disabilities who often come to them in crisis. But health care, benefits and legal services systems are often “siloed,” offering compartmentalized services that may not fully address client needs. This Project starts with a holistic disability rights focus that cuts across systems.

Fellowship Highlights

In the past two years, Sydney has:

  • Developed an advocacy guide to assist legal providers in understanding disability rights obligations within a federally funded, locally implemented homeless assistance program
  • Collaborated with legal advocates and state partners to improve disability rights law compliance in public benefits programs
  • Assisted in the development of a curricular guide to increase disability competency in the field of social work education
  • Composed educational materials for health providers on the nuances of disability language in public benefit applications
  • Created a “Medication Access Proposal” for cooling and storage of medications needed by homeless individuals

What’s Next

Now that the Fellowship is complete, Sydney plans to:

  • Continue on at DREDF as a staff attorney working on systemic advocacy in key areas of housing and emergency planning
  • Advance my advocacy skills within disability and civil rights
  • Support community building and affordable, inclusive housing efforts


Emergencies and Disabilities – Pushing Limits – August 27, 2021

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