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Judith Heumann
Stories of inspiration from Smart Girl Stories across the globe. Celebrating the Achievements of Judith Heumann

Celebrating the Achievements of Judith Heumann

When it comes to advocating for the rights of people with disabilities, few individuals have had as great an impact as Judith Heumann. Throughout her career, Heumann has dedicated herself to breaking down barriers and fighting for social justice. Let’s explore her life and work, and highlight some of her most notable accomplishments.

Judith Heumann – Early Years

Born in 1947 in Brooklyn, New York, Heumann contracted polio as a baby and uses a wheelchair. Despite facing discrimination and exclusion throughout her life, she remained determined to succeed. In 1970, Heumann became one of the founders of Disabled in Action, a civil rights group that sought to empower people with disabilities and raise awareness about the unique challenges they face. Through her involvement with this organization, Heumann became increasingly involved in disability activism at the local and national levels.


Over the years, Heumann has held numerous important positions in the field of disability advocacy. In the 1990s, she served as the Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services at the U.S. Department of Education, where she helped to develop and implement policies that ensured people with disabilities had access to the same opportunities as their non-disabled peers. She also served as the World Bank’s first advisor on disability and development, where she worked to promote the inclusion of people with disabilities in international development efforts.


One of Heumann’s most notable accomplishments was her role in the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990. As a leader in the disability rights movement, Heumann was a tireless advocate for the legislation, which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, housing, public accommodations, and other areas. Thanks in no small part to Heumann’s efforts, the ADA has transformed the lives of millions of Americans with disabilities.


Heumann’s advocacy work has been recognized with numerous awards and honors over the course of her career. In 2010, President Obama appointed her as the Special Advisor for International Disability Rights, making her the first person to hold this position. She has also received the Henry B. Betts Award from the American Association of People with Disabilities, as well as a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship.

Judith Heumann’s Legacy

Judith Heumann has spent her entire life fighting for the rights of people with disabilities. Her tireless advocacy work has made a significant impact on the lives of millions of Americans, not to mention people around the world. Through her leadership and determination, she has helped to break down barriers and create a more inclusive society. Today, we celebrate her remarkable achievements and express our gratitude for all that she has done to improve the lives of people with disabilities.

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