Remembering the Mother of the Disability Rights Movement

By Abigail Bodden, age 10

Judy Heumaan, original illustration by Aida El-Hajjar, age 13

Judy Heumann, known as “the mother” of the disability rights movement, passed away on March 5, 2023.

Heumann was a lifelong advocate for disability rights internationally. In 1977, she led a 26-day sit-in in San Francisco, which paved the way for the Americans with Disabilities Act, which now protects disabled people from discrimination. In 2010, she was appointed special adviser on international disability rights by President Obama and worked to provide rights and necessary accommodations to disabled people.

Heumann lost use of her legs at 2 years old after contracting polio. She was denied the right to attend school at age 5 as she was considered a “fire hazard.” Heumann sued the New York Board of Education after being denied a teaching license as a result of failing the medical exam. After winning this lawsuit, Heumann became the first teacher in the state to use a wheelchair.

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