Judy Heumann

We were saddened to hear of the passing of Judy Heumann. She was considered the “mother” of the disability rights movement and responsible for many of the rights and freedoms of people with disabilities.

March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month and we felt it appropriate to share Judy’s story. We hope that it will inspire others to advocate for the rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

As a child, Judy was diagnosed with polio. As a result, she used a wheelchair.  One of her first brushes with discrimination came when she was just 5 years old.  Her school was not wheelchair accessible and her parents were told that she was considered a  “fire hazard” and could not attend school.

She became a fierce advocate and grassroots activist, spending a lot of time working with legislators and participating in protests. Her many accomplishments include becoming teacher in New York City, lobbying for legislation that became the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and the Rehabilitation Act.

In 1993, Judy served in the Clinton administration as the assistant secretary of the U.S. Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services. She was also involved in passage of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which was ratified in May 2008.

She was also featured in the award-winning documentary Crip Camp which is available on Netflix. You can learn more about the documentary here: https://cripcamp.com/

Judy helped establish the Berkley Center for Independent Living, the Independent Living Movement and the World Institute on Disability.  She served on the boards including the American Association of People with Disabilities, the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, Humanity and Inclusion and the United States International Council on Disability.

Judy paved the way for people with disabilities to live independent lives. She consistently fought for freedoms that many people without disabilities take for granted. We are grateful for all that she did for people with disabilities and their families.

If you would like to learn more about Judy, you can visit her website: https://judithheumann.com/