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Judy Heumann - Disability Rights Activist

Social Science, Philosophy and Religion Department, Central Library,
Activist Judy Heumann holding her two books, Being Heumann: An Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Rights Activist and Rolling Warrior
Activist Judy Heumann holding her two books, Being Heumann: An Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Rights Activist and Rolling Warrior. Photo: judithheumann.com

We Americans owe a profound debt of gratitude to activist Judy Heumann. The chutzpah she has demonstrated through decades of direct action has solidified fundamental civil rights for people with disabilities. An early fight that Ms. Heumann won was to be certified as a teacher in New York City schools—she had completed all of the degree requirements and passed certification exams. The Board of Education’s Board of Examiners had determined that she had failed the physical examination because of “extreme paralysis in both lower extremities.”

Ms. Heumann persevered in her fight to change policies and laws. Two years after winning her teacher’s license, Heumann and other activists steered their wheelchairs in the center of Manhattan’s Madison Avenue during rush hour as a demonstration against lack of federal protection. In the ensuing years, activists protested exclusionary policies and laws, including when about 100 people held a sit-in at a San Francisco federal building for 23 days during April of 1977. Thirteen years later, following steady pressure by disability activists and resulting public awareness, President George H.W. Bush signed into law the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) on July 26, 1990.

Heumann has continued her activism, serving in U.S. government roles in the Clinton and Obama administrations. She has also served as the World Bank's first Adviser on Disability and Development as a Senior Fellow at the Ford Foundation.

Heumann’s recent autobiography, Being Heumann: An Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Rights Activist, is available from the library. Rolling Warrior: The Incredible, Sometimes Awkward, True Story of a Rebel Girl on Wheels Who Helped, is a book written for young adults. We’ve also included here other memoirs from disability rights activists within our collection.


Recommended Reading


Being Heumann: An Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Rights Activist
Heumann, Judith E.

Rolling Warrior: The Incredible, Sometimes Awkward, True Story of a Rebel Girl on Wheels
Heumann, Judith E.

About Us: Essays From the Disability Series of the New York Times

Care Work: Dreaming Disability Justice
Piepzna-Samarasinha, Leah Lakshmi

Every Day is a Gift: A Memoir
Duckworth, Tammy

I Live a Life Like Yours: A Memoir
Grue, Jan

Poster Child: A Memoir
Rapp Black, Emily

Sitting Pretty: The View From My Ordinary Resilient Disabled Body
Taussig, Rebekah


 

 

 

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