How did Judy Heumann die? Disability rights activist cause of death and obituary

Judy Heumann
Judy Heumann, mother of disability rights movement


Judith Ellen “Judy” Heumann, an American disability rights activist has passed away. Let’s see, how did Judy Heumann die and her cause of death in detail.

How did Judy Heumann die?

Judy Heumann, “the mother” of the disability rights movement, passed away in Washington, D.C. on the afternoon of March 4, 2023.

Judy’s demise news was confirmed by her team on social media. Her website, also shared the statement on her passing and the statement reads,

Judy was at the forefront of major disability rights demonstrations, helped spearhead the passage of disability rights legislation, founded national and international disability advocacy organizations, held senior federal government positions, co-authored her memoir, Being Heumann, and its Young Adult version, Rolling Warrior, and was featured in the Oscar-nominated documentary film, Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution.

Tributes flooded social media for the activist, as soon as the demise news broke out.

Who was Judy Heumann?

Judy Heumann was born in Philadelphia in 1947 and raised in Brooklyn, New York. she was contracted polio at the age of two.

When it became clear that she would never be able to walk, her doctor advised her parents to place her in a nursing home.

“Institutionalization was the status quo in 1949,” she wrote. “Kids with disabilities were regarded as a financial and social burden.”

When Judy attempted to enter kindergarten, the principal blocked her family from entering the school, labeling her a “fire hazard.”

Her parents, particularly her mother, fought back and demanded that Judy be allowed to attend school.

Judy was eventually able to attend a special school, high school, Long Island University (where she earned a B.A. in 1969), and she earned a Master’s in Public health from the University of California, Berkeley.

State’s first wheelchair-bound teacher:

Heumann attended Camp Jened, a summer camp for people with disabilities in the Catskills, in the 1970s and later returned as a counselor.

Several disability rights leaders were also present at Camp Jened, which was the subject of the documentary Crip Camp.

During the same decade, the New York Board of Education denied Judy a teaching license due to concerns that she would be unable to assist students or herself in the case of a fire.

She sued and went on to become the state’s first wheelchair-bound teacher.

In order to protest Richard Nixon’s veto of the 1972 Rehabilitation Act, Judy helped lead a protest that shut down traffic in Manhattan.

In order to enforce Section 504 of the resurrected Rehabilitation Act, she began a 26-day sit-in at a federal building in San Francisco.

Judy was a key figure in the development and implementation of national disability rights legislation such as Section 504, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Rehabilitation Act, and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Judy’s remarkable works:

Judy was instrumental in the establishment of the Berkley Center for Independent Living, the Independent Living Movement, and the World Institute on Disability.

She has also served on the boards of several organizations, including the American Association of People with Disabilities, the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, Humanity and Inclusion, Human Rights Watch, the United States International Council on Disability, Save the Children and others.

Judy relocated to Washington, D.C. in 1993 to work as the Assistant Secretary of the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services during the Clinton Administration, a position she held until 2001.

She was the World Bank’s first Advisor on Disability and Development from 2002 to 2006. Judy served as the United States State Department’s first Special Advisor for International Disability Rights from 2010 to 2017.

She was also named the first Director of the Department of Disability Services in Washington, D.C.

“Some people say that what I did change the world,” she wrote, “But really, I simply refused to accept what I was told about who I could be. And I was willing to make a fuss about it.”

In addition to her advocacy work and hectic professional schedule, Judy loved to go to musicals and movies, explore the world, meet new people, and hang out with her friends—many of whom she brought together for dinners. She also loved to make new friends and see old ones.

She learned Hebrew as a child, became a Bat Mitzvah as an adult, and was an Adas Israel congregation member for many years.

Judy Heumann’s cause of death:

Judy Heumann passed away surrounded by her family. She was 75. Judy Heumann’s cause of death was not revealed yet. It was believed that it must be a natural death.

Heumann was not ill; she never disclosed any serious health problems that could have led to her death.

Judy is survived by her loving husband, Jorge Pineda, her brother Ricky, wife Julie, her brother Joseph and wife Mary, her niece Kristin, grand nephew Orion, and many other Heumann and Pineda family members. She had many close friends who will sadly miss her.

Tributes to Judith Heuman:

Diversability posted,

Today, we mourn the passing of The Mother of Disability Rights, Judy Heumann. To say she left this world a better place is an understatement—Judy Heumann is the one who blazed the trail for disability rights.

Adam tweeted,

Saddened to learn my cousin Judy Heumann died today, a true hero who does not get the recognition she deserves. May her memory be a blessing . Photo is Judy, my uncle Dr. Milton Heumann and myself when Judy spoke at Rutgers in 2018. #JudyHeumann

Gaelynn Lea tweeted,

This afternoon I am processing the loss – as we all are in the disability community & beyond – of Judy Heumann. Rest in peace and rest in power. There are a couple things that keep coming to mind when I reflect on Judy Heumann’s enormous impact

AAPD tweeted,

We are deeply saddened by the passing of Judy Heumann, known by many as a mentor, friend, and “the mother” of the disability rights movement. Judy was 75 years old.


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