Disability rights leader, activist and author Judith “Judy” Heumann, who helped secure legislation protecting the rights of persons with disabilities, died on Saturday at age 75.
News of her death Saturday in Washington, D.C., was posted on her website and social media accounts and confirmed by her youngest brother, Rick Heumann.
Heumann has been called the mother of the disability rights movement for her longtime advocacy on behalf of persons with disabilities through protests and legal action, her website says.
Born in Philadelphia and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Heumann became a wheelchair user after developing polio at an early age in 1949.
She lobbied for disability 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, beginning in 1993 in the Clinton administration, until 2001.
Heumann uplifted the voices within the disability community through her podcast, “The Heumann Perspective.” In 2021 the Heumann-Armstrong Award was launched to honor students with disabilities who have fought against ableism in schools and higher education.
She received several awards in her lifetime, including seven honorary doctorates. She gave a commencement speech at New York University in May 2022, where she received her most recent honorary doctorate.