In response to the passing of Judy Heumann, an iconic disability and civil rights champion, The Century Foundation (TCF) Board Member, former U.S. Congressman from California, and friend to Judy, George Miller, released the following statement:

“Today we mourn the loss of Judy Heumann, the most extraordinary advocate and champion for people with disabilities I have ever met. For over five decades, Judy helped lead the fight for people with disabilities to win their full civil rights. She was a fierce and courageous advocate and served as the public conscience necessary to drive landmark legislative and administrative actions to expand disability rights. 

“A wheelchair user since contracting polio in her childhood, Judy fought for her place and her rights from an early age. And she inspired others to join her as part of a growing political movement. One of her most dramatic acts was in April 1977, when Judy and dozens of fellow disabled activists staged an unprecedented month-long sit-in at the Federal Building in San Francisco. They refused to leave until then-U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Joseph Califano Jr. agreed to fully enforce Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, ensuring no discrimination against people with disabilities in any federally-funded program. 

“Congressman Phil Burton and I were so moved by Judy and the group’s extraordinary courage that we joined them on site and declared the venue a satellite congressional office to highlight their powerful protest. Judy and her fellow advocates won that fight and dramatically changed the federal government’s enforcement of disability rights.

“Judy was a leader; a friend for life; a doer, teacher, mentor, and an inspiration to all Americans. We are all very much in her debt. I send my condolences to all her dear friends and family and a generation of disability rights advocates and supporters that she inspired.”

Additionally, TCF Senior Fellow and Director of TCF’s Disability Economic Justice Collaborative, Kimberly Knackstedt, who served in the Biden administration as the first-ever Director of Disability Policy for the the DPC, released this statement on behalf of the TCF’s disability economic justice team:

“Judy Heumann will forever be an icon, for the disability rights movement and for the world. Her actions paved the way for millions of disabled people in the United States to have access to education, the workplace, health care, independent living, and so much more. She never stopped fighting for full participation and access for disabled people, in every aspect of life. 

“Judy laid the groundwork for our efforts at the Disability Economic Justice Collaborative to achieve economic security for all disabled people in the U.S. Judy will be incredibly missed. We mourn her today and will continue to uplift the memories and inspiration of her life forever.”

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