March 8, 2023

A farewell to Judy

- from Gagan Chhabra, Project Manager on Inclusion at the Atlas Alliance

I met Judy Heumann in 2018 at Harvard University. She was participating in a panel discussion and post discussion we had a very warm and and engaging conversation that cultivated into a beautiful mentor-student relationship.

Judy, in my opinion, was a force of nature and she changed the disability rights movement in the United States and globally forever.

She was an exemplary disability rights activist, who had a capacity to follow twin tracks – protests, in the form of contentious, political action on one hand, and capacity to create compelling narrative stories to change the attitudes of the general public on the other.

She was a prolific and hardworking person when it comes to organizing protests and strikes that reflected her feisty nature, and we all knew her for her never give up attitude. Also, she was a very amiable, open minded and generous person with tremendous capacity to weave compelling narratives that could influence presidents, world leaders, and also grassroots activists, disability researchers, and family members of persons with disabilities.

When I met her, she was very kind and almost like an elderly, wise and loving grandmother to me. She had a tremendous intergenerational appeal and a knack of meeting people from wherever they came from. Judy and her influence crossed the American borders, and she was a historically conscious guide to disability rights activists, disability researchers, and persons with disabilities all around the globe.

She traveled extensively in the global south, and she was completely aware that the US and other rich countries have to do a lot more to improve the lives of persons with disabilities in their own countries, but also in countries which are underprivileged.

To me personally, Judy personified a feisty equality activist, who taught for human dignity and combating discrimination. She will be remembered and cherished for years to come.

Judy Heumann indeed was human, all too human! May she rest in peace, and may her memory be a blessing to all who are passionate for the disability rights cause globally.

Judy Heuman passed away on 4 March 2023 at the age of 75.