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Mourning the Passing of Disability Activist Judith Heumann

March 2023

“Disability becomes a tragedy when society fails to provide the things we need to live our lives – job opportunities or barrier-free buildings, for example. It is not a tragedy to me that I’m living in a wheelchair.”

The Reeve Foundation mourns the passing of Judith (Judy) Heumann, widely regarded as “the mother” of disability rights. Judy’s advocacy leadership through protests and legal action included lobbying for legislation that eventually led to the Americans with Disabilities Act, Individuals with Disabilities

Education Act and the Rehabilitation Act. She served as the assistant secretary of the U.S. Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services from 1993-2001. She was also involved in the passage of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, ratified in May 2008.

She is the author of Being Heumann: An Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Rights Activist, and is featured in the 2020 Sundance documentary winner and Academy Award nominee, Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution.

“Some people say that what I did changed the world,” she wrote, “But really, I simply refused to accept what I was told about who I could be. And I was willing to make a fuss about it.”

Our Foundation and numerous members of our team and wider community shared a deep friendship with Judy that is irreplaceable. As we mourn her, we honor her trailblazing work to revolutionize what it means to live with disability. A visionary leader, Judy transformed the world and shaped countless lives. In recent years, she served as a mentor and role model to young activists who now carry forward her life’s monumental work. Together, we honor Judy’s legacy as we continue to march toward equality.

Regina Blye, Chief Policy Officer and Judith Heumann
Judith Heumann and Alan Brown, Director, New Partner Engagement