At the age of 75, Judy Heumann, a well-known fighter for the rights of people with disabilities, passed away.
Heumann was a well-known figure in the disability rights movement around the world, and it was thanks to his advocacy that important laws were passed in the US.
She was the first person using a wheelchair to hold a teaching position in New York City after having polio as a child.
On Saturday, she passed away in Washington, DC.
Heumann was “widely recognized as the’mother’ of the disability rights movement,” according to a note on her website announcing her passing.
She formed national and international advocacy organizations, was in the forefront of important disability rights protests, and was instrumental in getting laws passed, it was said.
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Heumann had more than 20 years of non-profit experience and served in both the Clinton and Obama administrations.
Barack Obama praised Heumann for her lifetime commitment to the battle for civil rights and said he was “privileged” to work with her.
Her leadership “advanced the rights and intrinsic dignity of individuals with disabilities,” according to the American Association of People with Disabilities, which also led the tributes.
Taking part in a demonstration, Judy Heumann PICTURE SOURCE: TARI HARTMAN SQUIRE
Judy Heumann exemplifying the caption (in white T-shirt and cap)
She was born in Philadelphia in 1947 and reared in Brooklyn, New York. At the age of two, she was diagnosed with polio and lost her ability to walk.
She spoke about being treated like a “second-class citizen” when she finally entered a school at age nine since her wheelchair was deemed a “fire threat” and prevented her from attending pre-school.
She studied speech therapy at Long Island University and obtained a master’s degree in public health from the University of California, Berkeley after her parents campaigned for her rights when she was a young child.
She won a legal battle with the New York Board of Education in the 1970s and went on to become the first teacher in the state to use a wheelchair.
In 1977, she organized a 24-day sit-in at a federal facility in San Francisco as part of her campaign for civil rights; this action finally paved the way for the 1990 enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Heumann then served as an assistant secretary in the Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services during the Clinton administration (1993–2001), and Barack Obama later named him a special adviser on international disability rights.
Together with her decades-long activism, she co-wrote Being Heumann, a memoir, and Rolling Warrior, a Young Adult version. She was also a participant in Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution, an Oscar-nominated documentary.
Her husband Jorge, as well as her brothers Ricky and Joseph, survive Heumann.