Judith “Judy” Heumann (1947-2023) was a lifelong advocate for the rights of people with disabilities in the United States. Below are books, videos and podcasts to learn more about Judy.
A story of fighting to belong in a world that wasn’t built for all of us and of one woman’s activism—from the streets of Brooklyn and San Francisco to inside the halls of Washington— Being Heumann recounts Judy Heumann’s lifelong battle to achieve respect, acceptance, and inclusion in society.
Paralyzed from polio at eighteen months, Judy’s struggle for equality began early in life. From fighting to attend grade school after being described as a “fire hazard” to later winning a lawsuit against the New York City school system for denying her a teacher’s license because of her paralysis, Judy’s actions set a precedent that fundamentally improved rights for disabled people.
As a young woman, Judy rolled her wheelchair through the doors of the US Department of Health, Education, and Welfare in San Francisco as a leader of the Section 504 Sit-In, the longest takeover of a governmental building in US history. Working with a community of over 150 disabled activists and allies, Judy successfully pressured the Carter administration to implement protections for disabled peoples’ rights, sparking a national movement and leading to the creation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Candid, intimate, and irreverent, Judy Heumann’s memoir about resistance to exclusion invites readers to imagine and make real a world in which we all belong.” Source
If I didn’t fight, who would?
Judy Heumann was only 5 years old when she was first denied her right to attend school. Paralyzed from polio and raised by her Holocaust-surviving parents in New York City, Judy had a drive for equality that was instilled early in life.
In this young readers’ edition of her acclaimed memoir, Being Heumann, Judy shares her journey of battling for equal access in an unequal world—from fighting to attend grade school after being described as a “fire hazard” because of her wheelchair, to suing the New York City school system for denying her a teacher’s license because of her disability. Judy went on to lead 150 disabled people in the longest sit-in protest in US history at the San Francisco Federal Building. Cut off from the outside world, the group slept on office floors, faced down bomb threats, and risked their lives to win the world’s attention and the first civil rights legislation for disabled people.
Judy’s bravery, persistence, and signature rebellious streak will speak to every person fighting to belong and fighting for social justice.” Source
Fighting for yes! : The story of disability rights activist Judith Heumann
A picture book biography celebrating the life and work of disability rights activist and icon Judith Heumann, highlighting one of her landmark achievements—leading the historic 504 sit-in in 1977.
Our Fight for Disability Rights- and Why We’re Not Done Yet” – TED talk
Four decades ago, Judith Heumann helped to lead a groundbreaking protest called the Section 504 sit-in — in which disabled-rights activists occupied a federal building for almost a month, demanding greater accessibility for all. In this personal, inspiring talk, Heumann tells the stories behind the protest — and reminds us that, 40 years on, there’s still work left to do.Transcript in English and 19 other languages.
“In the early 1970s, teenagers with disabilities faced a future shaped by isolation, discrimination and institutionalization. Camp Jened, a ramshackle camp “for the handicapped” (a term no longer used) in the Catskills, exploded those confines. Jened was their freewheeling Utopia, a place with summertime sports, smoking and make-out sessions awaiting everyone, and campers experienced liberation and full inclusion as human beings. Their bonds endured as many migrated West to Berkeley, California — a hotbed of activism where friends from Camp Jened realized that disruption, civil disobedience, and political participation could change the future for millions.
Crip Camp is the story of one group of people and captures one moment in time. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of other equally important stories from the Disability Rights Movement that have not yet received adequate attention. We are committed to using the film’s platform to amplify additional narratives in the disability rights and disability justice communities – with a particular emphasis on stories surrounding people of color and other intersectionally marginalized communities. We stand by the creed of nothing about us, without us. For too long, too many were excluded, and it is time to broaden the number of voices and share the mic.” Source
Simple Things Count: Disability is a Strength
The Heumann Perspective
“Join Judy Heumann, an internationally recognized bad-ass disability activist in conversation with disabled changemakers and their allies. For all fighting for change, these conversations across the worlds of art, entertainment, policy and advocacy are sure to light a rebellious fire under you to fight harder for justice. Judy Heumann is an internationally recognized disability advocate after serving in the Clinton and Obama Administration and being a Senior Fellow at the Ford Foundation. She was featured in the documentary “Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution,” a 2020 American award winning documentary film, directed by James LeBrecht and Nicole Newnham, produced by the Obama Higher Ground Production. She is also an author of her memoir “Being Heumann: An Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Rights Activist.” along with Kristen Joiner. She is now the producer of The Heumann Perspective, a podcast and YouTube channel that aims to share the beauty of the disability community.” Source
Judith Heumann: Disability Warrior, ABC Conversations (51 mins), 2021
“Judith Heumann caught polio as a toddler in Brooklyn in 1949. The disease left her paralysed, and her parents were told to put her into an institution. Instead, they fought for Judy to go to school just like every other kid in the neighbourhood. As a teenager, Judy went to summer camp and found a community of other disabled kids with high expectations like her.
Together they became a generation of disability rights activists who changed the world; staging sit-ins and protests to introduce a slew of radical changes from wheelchair accessible bathrooms and buses, to demanding sign language interpreters. Judy was later invited to join both President Clinton’s and President Obama’s administrations, and she became the World Bank’s first adviser on disability and development.” Source
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- Judith "Judy" Heumann (1947-2023)
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