The life and career of Judith Heumann — teacher, scholar, activist, diplomat — closely parallel the rise and growth of the American disability-rights movement.
As a child disabled by polio, and as a wheelchair-using college graduate entering the workforce, she had to fight her native New York City’s school system for both the right to an education and the right to teach. During the 1970s she co-founded one of New York’s first disability activist groups, worked with Ed Roberts to launch the independent living movement in California, and helped organize the landmark Section 504 sit-ins of 1977. She assisted in crafting what was to become the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and helped build bridges between activists and elected officials to smooth the way for passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Over the past four decades, Heumann (pictured) has had a direct hand in improving access, integration and quality of life for all disabled Americans, and has served as a role model for a new generation of outspoken, well-educated and rights-minded people with disabilities.
Judy Heumann, always an advocate for disabled women world-wide, was one of the organizers of the 1997 International Leadership Forum for Women with Disabilities.
Now, with her recent appointment to the U.S. State Department — as Special Advisor for International Disability Rights — Heumann has become an ambassador not just for the United States, but for the disability community throughout the world. Since taking on the position in June 2010, Heumann — already a seasoned traveler — has journeyed to numerous countries, exchanging ideas with both disabled and nondisabled leaders, and seeking to make sure the voices of people with disabilities are heard in an increasingly fast-moving and tightly knit global village.
For her unwavering commitment to secure equal rights for people with disabilities all over the world, New Mobility is proud to name Judith Heumann as our 2010 Person of the Year.
Tuesday, January 4, 2011
Posted by BA Haller at 4:27 PM