The Mother of Disability Rights

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Image of a young Judy Heumann speaking at a microphone.

Since our last newsletter, the mother of disability rights died at 75 years old. The Washington Post labeled her as “a badass.” March is Disability Awareness Month so how can we let the month come to an end without highlighting the life of Judy Heumann?

Many were first introduced to her in the 2020 Oscar nominated documentary, Crip Camp. She was paralyzed at 18-months when she contracted polio. What followed was a lifelong unrepentant battle for human (Heumann?) rights.

Judy led the longest takeover of a government building in 1977 when, at the age of 29, she was part of the Section 504 sit-in. She sparked what would become a movement resulting in the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990.

This dynamic woman was the same person who, as a child, was labeled “a fire hazard” when her parents tried to enroll her in a Brooklyn kindergarten. Despite initial opposition from the NYC schools, and only after a lawsuit, she became the first NYC teacher in a wheelchair.

Our social media this month has featured quotes from people with disabilities in our community to help share an understanding of their typical day and what elements are most important to them. We have heard about jobs, hobbies, and families. They are all wonderful reflections of Judy’s sentiment.

“Why do we see disability differently from any other
aspect of being human?”

Don’t let the month pass without watching Crip Camp or reading her memoir, Being Heumann. Encourage others to do the same. Share our newsletter. Be an ally to the disabled in their battle for self-advocacy. Look around northeast Indiana and challenge us with how we can meet our mission to empower those with disabilities to live as independently as possible. Independence, to paraphrase Judy, isn’t about doing things by yourself, it is being in control of how you want things done.

Be sure you have the Disabilities Expo on your calendar in May.