A Life Well Lived- Our Friend Judy

Today we join in sharing our condolences for the loss of Disability Rights pioneer Judy Heumann. 

Affectionately known by her podcast listeners as a “certified badass”, Heumann’s influence in starting, and expanding the disability-independent living movement around the world, cannot be underestimated. 

As a child, Heumann challenged the systems in place that questioned why individuals with disabilities were separated and not provided the same opportunities as other students. This sparked her trailblazing work in which she was a central figure in every significant piece of disability rights legislation, including the foundations of disability protections: Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

Heumann has long been a friend of Able South Carolina, appearing in podcast episodes, speaking at events, and engaging with our youth. In 2020, Heumann joined the South Carolina Access & Independence Network’s Advocacy Day for Access & Independence and shared this with our community: 

“Disabled individuals, regardless of our ability, have a right to the same quality of healthcare and the right to receive information… This is a time not only for us to speak up and speak out but also to be working actively with other coalitions of organizations…We must fight against any kind of bias which precludes people with different types of disabilities, racial backgrounds, socioeconomic backgrounds, etc. We must be fighting [so that] every vote counts, and we must be fighting against those who are trying to limit and restrict the number of people who can vote…Do not be shy. I encourage you to work in a collaborative way because it’s very important that the messages that are going to be given to your state legislators and others … that we try to speak in a unified voice… try to work cohesively to fight against discrimination across the board.”

Heuman also spoke to delegates of the South Carolina Youth Leadership Forum, our youth who represent future disability leaders, in the summers of 2021 and 2022. She emboldened and inspired them to be activists and leaders within their communities and the greater disability rights movement. The delegates asked her, what do you want to see from our generation? Heumann shared, 

“Continuing to expand the work of the movement, which includes learning about each other, supporting each other, working for new legislation implementation of legislation… You don’t have to only be working in the area of disability. You can also take your knowledge and drive, and bring it into other groups, sports clubs or sports groups or book clubs, or your religious community, whatever it may be, allowing disability to be a part of who you are and try to show up with it.”

Always one to never accept the status quo simply because “that’s the way it’s always done.” Heumann envisioned a barrier-free world for all individuals. A world that embraced inclusion for anyone with a disability. 

Since 1994 Heumann’s influence has directly guided the work of Able SC. Our impact is directly related to the paths she created for all of us. 

“Judy’s life is something to be celebrated. While we are devastated by the loss of our friend, we will forever carry her legacy, her passion, and her grit.” Kimberly Tissot, Able SC, President, and CEO. 

Huemann held a life well lived and was the ultimate badass. Rest in power, Judy. We will continue the movement you helped create.

Listen to or read the transcript from our 2019 Podcast Interview with Judy Heumann:


Jerri Davison and Kimberly Tissot stand and smile on both sides of Judy Heumann, who sits in her wheelchair and smiles next to them.
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