Disability Rights California is Saddened by the Loss of Disability Rights activist Judy Heumann

Latest News

Disability Rights California is Saddened by the Loss of Disability Rights activist Judy Heumann

DRC is saddened by the loss of disability rights activist Judy Heumann who was considered the “mother of the disability rights movement” because of her longtime advocacy for the disability community.

She played an instrumental role in lobbying for legislation that eventually led to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 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.  Also, during President Obama’s presidency, she was appointed as the first Special Advisor for International Disability Rights at the U.S. Department of State, where she served from 2010-2017. 

From her influence on national disability rights laws, serving as an advisor to multiple presidents, helping found the Berkeley Center for Independent Living, and her unwavering commitment to fighting for disability rights—her legacy cannot be understated. 

DRC had the privilege of joining Heumann last year for a four-day lecture at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) to discuss, “Disrupting Ableism in Higher Education and Beyond,” a conversation on disability justice and intersectionality. 

We were also fortunate to have Heumann participate in DRC’s virtual panel that celebrated the 30th anniversary of the ADA, where we discussed what the future holds for people with disabilities. The full event can be viewed here: https://www.disabilityrightsca.org/post/webinar-disability-rights-californias-celebration-of-the-30th-anniversary-of-the-americans.

DRC Executive Director Andy Imparato collaborated with Heumann on policy advocacy and movement building for almost 30 years. Andy Imparato says, "Cornel West has said 'you can't lead the people if you don't love the people.' One of Judy's greatest qualities as a leader for more than 50 years has been her ability to love her fellow disability activists, to learn about their lives, and to try to help them achieve their dreams. I am grateful to have known her and worked with her for the last three decades, and I look forward to celebrating her life and building on her legacy as our global movement continues to grow and extend our impact."

For more information, she has been featured in numerous documentaries on the history of the disability rights movement, and you can learn more about her legacy here:

Media Contacts

Melody Pomraning
Communications Director
Disability Rights California
(916) 504-5938


Disability Rights California (DRC) – Is the agency designated under federal law to protect and advocate for the rights of Californians with disabilities. The mission of DRC is to defend, advance, and strengthen the rights and opportunities of people with disabilities. For more information visit: https://www.disabilityrightsca.org.