Judy Heumann was a trailblazer and a true inspiration to millions of people around the world. As a disability rights activist, she fought tirelessly to promote equal opportunities for people with disabilities and to challenge societal attitudes that excluded them from full participation in their communities.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1947, Heumann contracted polio as a young child and was left with a permanent disability that affected her mobility. Despite this, she was determined to live life to the fullest and refused to let her disability define her. She went on to earn a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Long Island University and a Master’s degree in Public Health from the University of California, Berkeley.
Throughout her career, Heumann was a vocal advocate for disability rights and worked tirelessly to promote accessible transportation, housing, education, and employment opportunities for people with disabilities. In the 1970s, she played a key role in organizing a sit-in at the San Francisco Federal Building, demanding that the government enforce Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, which prohibited discrimination against people with disabilities in federally-funded programs.
Her activism continued in the decades that followed, including serving as the Assistant Secretary for the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services under President Bill Clinton. She also founded the World Institute on Disability, an organization dedicated to promoting the rights and independence of people with disabilities around the world.
Sadly, Judy Heumann passed away on March 4, 2023. Her legacy lives on, however, in the countless lives she touched and the impact she had on disability rights movements around the world. Heumann’s work helped to pave the way for a more inclusive society, where people with disabilities can live, work, and play alongside their non-disabled peers. Her efforts have helped to change societal attitudes towards disability and promote a more equitable world for all. We can honor her legacy by continuing to fight for the rights of people with disabilities and ensuring that everyone has the chance to live their lives to the fullest.
May her memory be a blessing.