Lunch & Learn with IHCD | An Interview with Judy Heumann

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IHCD's Executive Director Valerie Fletcher will be interviewing internationally renowned disability rights advocate and author Judy Heumann

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Judith (Judy) Heumann is a lifelong advocate for the rights of disabled people. She contracted polio in 1949 in Brooklyn, New York and began to use a wheelchair for her mobility. She was denied the right to attend school because she was considered a "fire hazard" at the age of five. Her parents played a strong role in fighting for her rights as a child, but Judy soon determined that she, working in collaboration with other disabled people, had to play an advocacy role due to continuous discrimination.

She is now an internationally recognized leader in the disability rights community. Her memoir, authored with Kristen Joiner, Being Heumann: An Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Rights Activist, is published by Beacon Press and audio recorded by Ali Stroker who is the first wheelchair actor to perform on Broadway. She is featured in Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution, a 2020 American award winning documentary film, directed by James LeBrecht and Nicole Newnham, produced by the Obama Higher Ground Production, available on Netflix. She has been featured in numerous documentaries including on the history of the disability rights movement, including Lives Worth Living and the Power of 504 and delivered a TED talk in the fall of 2016, “Our Fight for Disability Rights- and Why We’re Not Done Yet”. Her story was also told on Comedy Central’s Drunk History in early 2018, in which she was portrayed by Ali Stroker. As Senior Fellow at the Ford Foundation (2017-2019), she wrote “Road Map for Inclusion: Changing the Face of Disability in Media” She also currently serves on a number of non-profit boards including the American Association of Disability Rights and the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund and Humanity and Inclusion.

During his presidency, President Obama appointed Judy as the first Special Advisor for International Disability Rights at the U.S. Department of State, where she served from 2010-2017. Mayor Fenty of D.C. appointed her as the first Director for the Department on Disability Services, where she was responsible for the Developmental Disability Administration and the Rehabilitation Services Administration.

Judy graduated from Long Island University in Brooklyn, NY in 1969 and received her Master’s in Public Health from the University of California at Berkeley in 1975. She has received numerous awards including being the first recipient of the Henry B. Betts Award in recognition of efforts to significantly improve the quality of life for people with disabilities and the Max Starkloff Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Council on Independent Living. She has been awarded numerous honorary doctorates.

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