cover image Being Heumann: An Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Rights Activist

Being Heumann: An Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Rights Activist

Judith Heumann, with Kristen Joiner. Beacon, $25.95 (232p) ISBN 978-0-8070-1929-0

In this empowering debut, disability rights activist Heumann reveals her indomitable spirit as she battled prejudice and discrimination to gain equal opportunity. Recognizing that Americans with disabilities were “generally invisible in the daily life of society,” Heumann, who was paralyzed by polio at 18 months in 1949, fought for inclusion in everyday activities, believing “it was the government’s responsibility to ensure that everyone could participate equally in our society.” Fighting to go to elementary school in Brooklyn after being called “a fire hazard,” she first attended a segregated special education class before attending regular high school. Heumann attended Long Island University, where she led various student protests; after college, she won a lawsuit against the New York City Board of Education for denying her a teacher’s license because of her condition. In 1977, she helped organize a 24-day sit-in at the San Francisco office of U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, which pressured the Carter administration to finally execute protections for disabled people, eventually leading to passage of the American with Disabilities Act (“since we’d been left out of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, we needed our own Civil Rights Act”). Thoughtful and illuminating, this inspiring story is a must-read for activists and civil rights supporters. (Feb.)