Berkeley Rotary Peace Grove
|Judy Heumann's commitment to disability rights stems from her personal experience. She had polio at the age of 18 months, and has used a wheelchair most of her life. Heumann had to fight repeatedly to be included in the educational system. The local public school refused to allow her to attend, calling her a fire hazard. Heumann's mother, a community activist in her own right, challenged the decision, and Judy was allowed to go to school in the fourth grade. She began taking major steps toward rights for people with disabilities in college, organizing rallies and protests with other students with disabilities. Heumann became the first person in a wheelchair to teach in New York City and taught elementary school there for three years.
In 1970 Heumann and several friends with disabilities founded Disabled in Action, an organization that focused on securing the protection of people with disabilities under civil rights laws. While serving as a legislative assistant to the chairperson of the U.S. Senate Committee on Labor and Public Welfare, in 1974 she helped develop legislation that became the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. An early leader in the Independent Living Movement, she then moved to Berkeley where she served as deputy director of the Center
for Independent Living. She co-founded the World Institute on Disability with Ed Roberts and Joan Leon in 1983, serving as co-director until 1993.
Heumann served in the Clinton Administration as Assistant Secretary of the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services at the US Department of Education from 1993 to 2001. From 2002 to 2006 she served as the World Bank Group's first Advisor on Disability and Development, leading the World Bank's work on disability and worked to expand the Bank’s knowledge and capability to work with governments and civil society on including disability in the Bank discussions with client countries, its country-based analytical work, and support for improving policies, programs, and projects that allow disabled people around the world to live and work in the economic and social mainstream of their communities. In 2010 she became the Special Advisor on Disability Rights for the US State Department under President Barack Obama.