Judy Heumann, ‘mother of the disability rights movement,’ dead at 75

Judy Heumann, a famend activist who helped safe laws defending the rights of disabled folks, has died at age 75.

Information of her dying Saturday in Washington, D.C., was posted on her web site and social media accounts and confirmed by the American Affiliation of Folks with Disabilities.

Heumann’s actual trigger of dying wasn’t instantly identified. She had been in hospital a couple of week however had anticipated to go dwelling, stated Maria City, the affiliation’s president and CEO.

“Past all of the coverage making and authorized battles that she helped win and combat, she actually helped make it doable for disability to not be a nasty factor, to make it OK to be disabled in the world and never be considered an individual who must be in a separate, particular place,” City stated.

Heumann, who misplaced her capability to stroll at age two after contracting polio, has been known as the “mom of the disability rights motion” for her longtime advocacy on behalf of disabled folks by way of protests and authorized motion, her web site says.

Heumann, second from proper, is applauded throughout her swearing-in as U.S. Assistant Secretary for Particular Schooling and Rehabilitative Service in Berkeley, Calif., in June 1993. (Susan Ragan/The Related Press)

She lobbied for laws that ultimately led to the federal Individuals with Disabilities Act, People with Disabilities Schooling Act and the Rehabilitation Act. She served as the assistant secretary of the U.S. Workplace of Particular Schooling and Rehabilitation Providers, starting in 1993 in the Clinton administration, till 2001.

Heumann additionally was concerned in passage of the United Nations Conference on the Rights of Individuals with Disabilities, which was ratified in Might 2008.

She helped discovered the Berkley Middle for Unbiased Dwelling, the Unbiased Dwelling Motion and the World Institute on Disability and served on the boards of a number of associated organizations together with the American Affiliation of Folks with Disabilities, the Disability Rights Schooling and Protection Fund, Humanity and Inclusion and the United States Worldwide Council on Disability, her web site says.

Heumann, who was born in Philadelphia in 1947 and raised in New York Metropolis, was the co-author of her memoir, Being Heumann, and a model for younger adults titled, Rolling Warrior.

People are seen seated during a news conference.Heumann is seen at a information convention in Washington, D.C., in October 1982. (John Duricka/The Related Press)

Her e book recounts the wrestle her dad and mom skilled whereas making an attempt to safe a spot for his or her daughter at school. “Youngsters with disabilities had been thought-about a hardship, economically and socially,” she wrote.

She went on to graduate from highschool and earn a bachelor’s diploma from Lengthy Island College and a grasp’s diploma in public well being from the College of California, Berkeley. It was groundbreaking at the time, which exhibits simply how a lot has modified, Wall famous.

“Immediately the expectation for kids with disabilities is that we are going to be included in mainstream schooling, that we are going to have an opportunity to go to highschool, to go to school and to get these levels,” City stated whereas acknowledging that inequities persist. “However I feel the undeniable fact that the main assumption has modified is a very huge deal, and I additionally suppose Judy performed a big function.”

Judy Heumann devoted her life to the combat for civil rights—beginning as a younger organizer at Camp Jened and later serving to lead the disability rights motion. Michelle and I had been lucky to work with Judy over the years, and are considering of her household and buddies.


She additionally was featured in the 2020 documentary movie, Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution, which highlighted Camp Jened, a summer time camp Heumann attended that helped spark the disability rights motion. The movie was nominated for an Academy Award.

Throughout the Seventies she gained a lawsuit in opposition to the New York Board of Schooling and have become the first trainer in the state who was in a position to work whereas utilizing a wheelchair, which the board had tried to say was a fireplace hazard.

She additionally was a frontrunner in a historic, nonviolent occupation of a San Francisco federal constructing in 1977 that set the stage for passage of the Individuals With Disabilities Act, which turned legislation in 1990.

Judith Heumann was a fearless champion for the rights of folks with disabilities in our nation and round the world and hundreds of thousands of individuals who have confronted boundaries owe her a debt of gratitude. I’ll all the time keep in mind her as my hero and my good friend. RIP Judy Heumann 🤟🏻 #beingheumann


City, who has cerebral palsy, stated Heumann was the one who advised she use a mobility scooter to make it simpler to get round. She wasn’t prepared to listen to it at first after a lifetime of being informed she wanted to look much less disabled. Ultimately, although, she determined to present it a strive.

“And it is actually modified my life,” City stated. “And that was half of what Judy did. She actually helped folks settle for who they had been as disabled folks and take pleasure in that identification. And she or he helped so many individuals perceive their very own energy as disabled folks.”

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