Updated: Apr 13
I just finished watching Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution. Judith Heumann: Wow. And thank you. I knew about all the amazing activism work you did. And I have heard about your legendary organizing of people with disabilities to move policies, but this movie really made me feel what it was like to be living and protesting during
that time. Judy, your organization, Disabled in Action really was so instrumental in bringing people of various disabilities together to advocate for Section 504, one of the first civil rights laws to protect people with disabilities.
I think people in my generation forget that it was not that many decades ago that people with disabilities were institutionalized in understaffed and horrid conditions such as those seen in Willowbrook, a building in Staten Island (NYC). We forget that you grew up having to fight to go to school. We forget that sidewalks had no curb-cuts. We forget that buildings had no ramps and elevators. Thanks to you, the efforts of these people below, and many more individuals with disabilities that section 504 was passed. This law not only made the physical landscape more accessible for people with disabilities, but it also sent the message across the world that people with disabilities have value and we matter.
But you did not stop there. Because as you said, "I am tired of being thankful for accessible toilets... If I have to feel thankful about an accessible bathroom, then when am I going to be equal in the community?" We are far, far, far from being equal in the community even today as I write this post on March 28, 2020. But we would be a lot further from getting to equality if you didn't mobilize all those individuals with disabilities for the passage of section 504 and eventually the Americans with Disabilities Act. I am grateful for the progress you've made with the physical landscape, but I agree with you that we have a lot more mileage to go before we can truly be considered equal members of society. You did the work of changing the physical landscape, now it's our turn to decide how much we want to work to change the world's attitude towards people with disabilities.
Thank you for paving the path to so much progress and opening (literally and figuratively) so many doors to generations that came after you. We are grateful for advocates like you and we are grateful for allies like Evan White (a reporter who reported about the nearly month-long sit-ins during the 504 protests), Trevor Noah (who invited you to be on his show to talk about disability rights), and Michelle and Barack Obama who are the executive producers of this amazing film, Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution.
I hope my generation will take the torch and make you proud, Judith Heumann and perhaps change some minds about disability. 💓