NOD Honors Revolutionary Disability Rights Activist Judy Heumann Who Died March 4th
By Carol Glazer, President of the National Organization on Disability
Our world is mourning the loss of Judy Heumann.
She was responsible for many legislative advances, along with propelling forward the fundamental rights that people with disabilities enjoy today. She was a fierce advocate, spending her early life challenging the system and calling for needed change in education, public and private sector accessibility and an end to discrimination of people with disabilities.
Then, later in her life, she worked within the system to make improvements by joining the administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.
I worked closely with Judy during the last five years as she became a guide to me and our organization in creating a disability roundtable made up of 17 national disability organizations. It was not an easy process, and Judy, knowing how impactful the roundtable could be, gave her time generously to see it come to fruition.
Her stature within the disability community here, and across the globe, was enormous. She could be forceful, but always caring. You felt special and as though you were the only person in the room when she spoke to you.
I witnessed this many times, but one occasion will stick with me forever. My son, Jacob, who was born with hydrocephalus, walked by my computer during a virtual meeting with Judy and I introduced him to her. Judy immediately began asking him questions. As I often do, I provided the answers until Judy, nicely but firmly, explained that she wanted to talk to Jacob, not me.
We at NOD worked with Judy in 2020 when our nation marked the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in partnership with the George and Barbara Bush Foundation. Judy was a strong presence, always behind the scenes, making sure the event celebrated the courage of people who reimagined what life could be like for those of us with disabilities. To recognize her role in our fight for equality, in that year, NOD honored Judy with a lifetime achievement award.
And last September Judy spoke about “Honoring the Disability Rights Movement Over the Last 40 Years” at NOD’s 40th anniversary event in Washington D.C.
Speaking to our audience of largely corporate executives, she implored them to take up the work yet to be done to support meaningful employment for people with disabilities.
Judy will be remembered for her tenacity, courage and brilliance. I will also remember what she did to remind us all of the human connections we all should make. Everyone matters. That is an incredible legacy, indeed.