The disability rights community lost one of its most influential and respected advocates on March 8, 2023, with the passing of Judith “Judy” Heumann. As a civil rights activist, author, and policy maker, Judy dedicated her life to fighting for the rights of people with disabilities, both in the United States and around the world. She leaves behind a lasting legacy of positive change that will continue to inspire future generations.
Judy was a trailblazer in disability rights, known for her tireless advocacy work and her pioneering efforts to break down barriers for people with disabilities. She was instrumental in developing and implementing national disability rights legislation, including Section 504, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Rehabilitation Act, and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Her work helped to ensure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else, including access to education, employment, transportation, and public accommodations.
Judy's own experiences as a person with a disability inspired her activism. She contracted polio as a child, which resulted in her being denied the right to attend public school because of her disability. This experience fueled her passion for advocating for the rights of people with disabilities and ensuring that no one else would have to endure the same discrimination and exclusion that she faced.
Over the course of her career, Judy held a number of prominent positions in government and advocacy organizations. She served as the Special Advisor for International Disability Rights at the US Department of State, where she worked to promote disability rights around the world. She also served as the Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services at the US Department of Education, where she was responsible for implementing disability rights laws and ensuring that people with disabilities have access to high-quality education and vocational training.
Judy was also a prolific author and speaker, and her work has had a profound impact cannot be overstated. Her tireless advocacy work and groundbreaking efforts to advance human rights have transformed the lives of countless individuals with disabilities. Her legacy will continue to inspire future generations of human rights activists and advocates.
At the Institute for Human-Centered Design (IHCD), we join with the rest of the disability rights community in mourning the passing of Judy Heumann. Our condolences go out to her family and the many friends who will miss her dearly. We also celebrate her life and her achievements, and we are grateful for the incredible contributions she made to advancing the rights of people with disabilities.
Rest in Power, Judith “Judy” Heumann (1947-2023). Your legacy lives on.