Susan O’Hara, a leader in the independent living and disability rights movement, passed away July 1, 2018, in her home in Berkeley. She was 80-years old.
Born in La Grange, Illinois, she was a high school teacher of French and U.S. History. In 1974 she moved to Berkeley and for a short time taught at Oakland’s Holy Names High School.
The following year, Susan became the Coordinator of the Disabled Students Residence Program at UC Berkeley. Previously housed in a campus hospital, students with disabilities were moved to the Unit II residence halls. Having contracted polio as a child, Susan was a wheelchair user. Through her life experience and insights, she helped students with disabilities - including some who used iron lungs - make the transition from home to school. Susan also worked with families and parents to help them understand why living independently was an essential piece for people with disabilities achieving their hopes and dreams.