The book I was reading as the Black Lives Matter protests began is BEING HUEMANN: An Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Rights Activist by Judith Heumann. What a great book to read as Americans once again protest for human rights!
Judy Heumann, paralyzed from polio when she was 18 months old, is the force behind the American Disabilities Act, and her story, like those of all protesters, is one of who we are and who we can be in the United States of America.
Her memoir is a clear-eyed account of what it was like to live with a disability before the changes she helped bring about. It’s also a study in how to effect change.
Some of you may remember the 24-day sit-in at the San Francisco Department of Health, Education, and Welfare in the late ’70’s, still the longest sit-in of a federal building. Judy Heumann was behind that.
One of the many things that impressed me with Heumann’s activism is how she naturally understood the importance of coalition building. My favorite example is that the Black Panthers provided food for the disabled protesters occupying that building.
Today we take for granted wheelchair-accessible curbs, braille elevator numbers, ASL signers during speeches and concerts, every imaginable type of accessible transportation, mainstreamed disabled students. All of this is because of organized protests by the disabled community.
I strongly suggest you read BEING HEUMANN. If you don’t have time to read the book, check out Judy Heumann’s Ted Talks.
This is a woman you want to know!