WASHINGTON– Judy Heumann, a well-known activist who helped secure legislation protecting the rights of disabled people, has died at the age of 75.
News of his passing on Saturday in Washington, DC, was posted on his website and social media accounts and confirmed by the American Association of People with Disabilities. His cause of death was not immediately released.
Heumann, who lost the ability to walk at age 2 after contracting polio, has been called the “mother of the disability rights movement” for her longstanding advocacy of disability rights through of protests and legal action, says its website.
She lobbied for legislation that eventually led to the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and the Rehabilitation Act. She served as Assistant Secretary for the US Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services, from 1993 in the Clinton administration, until 2001.
Heumann was also involved in the approval of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which was ratified in May 2008.
He helped found the Berkley Center for Independent Living, the Independent Living Movement, and the World Institute on Disability and served on the boards of several related organizations, including the American Association of People with Disabilities, the Education and Advocacy Fund for the Rights of Disabilities, Humanity and Inclusion and the International Council on Disability of the United States, says its website.
Heumann, who was born in Philadelphia in 1947 in Philadelphia and raised in New York City, co-authored his memoir, “Being Heumann,” and a young adult version titled “Rolling Warrior.”
Her book recounts the struggle her parents experienced trying to secure a place for their daughter at school. “Children with disabilities were considered an economic and social hardship,” she wrote.
She then graduated from high school, earning a bachelor’s degree from Long Island University and a master’s degree in public health from the University of California, Berkeley.
He was also featured in the 2020 documentary, “Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution,” which highlighted Camp Jened, a summer camp Heumann attended that helped jump-start the disability rights movement. The film was nominated for an Academy Award.
During the 1970s, she won a lawsuit against the New York Board of Education and became the first teacher in the state who could work while using a wheelchair, which the board had tried to claim posed a fire hazard.
He was also a leader in a historic, nonviolent occupation of a San Francisco federal building in 1977 that laid the groundwork for the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which became law in 1990.