Remembering the Legacy of Disability Rights Activist Judy Heumann

March 7, 2023

Judy Heumann, a lifelong disability rights activist, author, and public speaker has died.

Judy had been fighting for disability rights for more than 40 years. She was born in 1947 in Brooklyn, New York, and contracted polio when she was 18 months old. The disease left her paralyzed from the neck down and dependent on a wheelchair for mobility.

Judy’s education was fraught with challenges. In the 1950s, schools were not required to provide accommodations for disabled students, and as a result, she was denied admission to public school. Her mother fought for her right to an education, and eventually, Judy was admitted to a special school for disabled children. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from Long Island University and a master’s degree from California State University, Northridge.

In the 1970s, Judy became a prominent figure in the disability rights movement. She was a founding member of the Disabled in Action organization, which fought for accessibility in public spaces, transportation, and employment. She also played a pivotal role in the historic 504 Sit-In, which took place in San Francisco in 1977. The sit-in was a protest against the federal government’s failure to enforce Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, which prohibited discrimination against individuals with disabilities in federally funded programs. The 504 Sit-In lasted for 25 days and resulted in the first-ever federal regulation protecting the rights of people with disabilities.

She also played a significant role in the development and passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). As a prominent disability rights activist, she was a key advocate for the rights of individuals with disabilities and worked tirelessly to promote the passage of the ADA.

Judy’s activism extended beyond the United States. She served as the World Bank’s first Advisor on Disability and Development, and in 2010, President Obama appointed her as the Special Advisor for International Disability Rights at the US Department of State. In this role, she helped to promote disability rights around the world and worked to ensure that people with disabilities were included in development programs.

Judy has also authored several books on disability rights, including “Being Heumann: An Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Rights Activist,” which was published in 2019. The book details her life and activism and provides insight into the challenges and victories of the disability rights movement.

Judy’s tireless advocacy and commitment to disability rights have had a profound impact on the world. Her efforts have led to increased accessibility, improved employment opportunities, and greater recognition of the rights of people with disabilities. She has received numerous awards for her work, including the Henry B. Betts Award, which recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions to the field of disability rights. She was a true champion for people with disabilities, and her legacy will continue to inspire and guide future generations of activists.

A memorial service honoring the life of Judy Heumann will be live-streamed on Wednesday, March 8th at 10 a.m. ET:…/


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