April 2023 Accessibility Corner Blog: Remembering Judith "Judy' Heumann

Remembering Judith "Judy' Heumann

“I am a change agent; I’m a fighter, I’m a believer in civil rights and human rights activist...” -- Judy Heumann

Let’s stop and take a moment to honor the legacy of lifelong disability rights activist Judith “Judy” Heumann, who passed away on March 4th, 2023. Judy was a trailblazer in the disability rights movement, and her tireless advocacy work has paved the way for countless individuals with disabilities.

As someone who lived with a disability from a young age, she became a fierce advocate for disability rights. She was a trailblazer in the movement, and her tireless advocacy work has paved the way for countless individuals with disabilities. Judy’s determination was a driving force in implementing regulations of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as was depicted in the award-winning and Oscar-nominated documentary “Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution ”and played a significant role in highlighting the disability rights movement of the 1970s and beyond. 

She fought for additional disability rights legislation, including the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. She was a crucial leader in the movement to pass the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990, which has been transformative in advancing accessibility and inclusion for people with disabilities.

It is essential to recognize that disability is not just a matter of individual experience but also a structural and societal issue. That's why having a disability lens in all the work we are doing is so critical. This means considering how policies, programs, and services impact people with disabilities and ensuring equal access to opportunities and resources.

One of the most noteworthy aspects of Judy's work was her insistence on approaching disability from a lens of empowerment and self-determination.

  • She believed that people with disabilities should have control over their lives and be able to make choices and pursue their goals just like anyone else. This principle has been critical in driving progress in disability rights and is something we must continue to prioritize in all our work.
  • Judy's work is a powerful reminder that the disability community is a vital part of our society and that their voices and perspectives must be included in all decision-making processes. 
  • By incorporating a disability lens into our work, we can create more equitable and inclusive communities for everyone.

At some point in all of our lives, we will experience a disability, whether it's temporary or permanent. Disabilities can be hidden or visible, and are broadly categorized into physical, sensory, intellectual or cognitive, psychiatric, and chronic illnesses. They can be categorized into physical, sensory, cognitive, psychiatric, and chronic illnesses. They can range from conditions such as spinal cord injuries and cerebral palsy to vision and hearing impairments, and from Down syndrome to chronic illnesses like multiple sclerosis and diabetes.

According to the World Health Organization, approximately 15% of the world's population, or around 1 billion people, are living with some form of disability. This includes people of all ages, races, genders, and socioeconomic backgrounds. It's important to remember that disability can affect anyone at any point, whether through illness, injury, or other circumstances. 

As arts and cultural organizations in Colorado, it's essential that we prioritize accessibility and inclusion in our programs and services. Here are a few statistics that underscore our need to prioritize accessibility and inclusion in our communities, workplaces, and public spaces. 

  • Approximately 12.6% of Colorado residents, or about 685,000 people, have a disability.
  • The unemployment rate for people with disabilities in Colorado is 7.4%, compared to 2.9% for those without disabilities. 
  • Additionally, the poverty rate for people with disabilities in Colorado is 24.5%, compared to 8.2% for those without disabilities.

Judy's legacy as a change agent and fighter for civil and human rights is inspiring and has paved the way for generations of advocates to continue fighting for the full participation of people with disabilities in their communities. We can honor her legacy by prioritizing inclusion and accessibility in our work. Here are a few ways that arts and cultural organizations can take action:

  • Conduct an accessibility audit of your programs and services to identify areas for improvement. Read CCI’s Grantee Accessibility Checklist to use as an example. 
  • Develop and implement an accessibility plan that outlines specific steps you will take to make your programs and services more accessible.
  • Provide disability awareness training for your staff and volunteers to help them better understand the needs of people with disabilities.
  • Engage with the disability community to gather input and feedback on your programs and services.
  • Advocate for policies and programs that advance accessibility and inclusion for people with disabilities.
  • Commitment to ongoing learning. Read the CCI List of Resources and Tools. 

We all have a role in ensuring that people with disabilities can fully participate in society and access the resources and support they need to thrive. 

By taking these steps, we can create more inclusive and accessible communities that benefit everyone. Thank you for your continued commitment to accessibility and inclusion and for joining us in honoring the legacy of Judy Heumann.

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Blog compiled by Marcie Moore Gantz 

CCI Accessibility & Belonging Statement 

Colorado Creative Industries (CCI) promotes diversity, equity, and inclusion in our programs and operations. We acknowledge and address systemic barriers that prevent access and opportunities for marginalized communities, including, but not limited to, people with disabilities, communities of color, Indigenous Peoples, and LGBTQIA+ communities. We are committed to ensuring accessibility in all of our programs and operations. As a statewide funding agency, we believe that accessibility and belonging are essential for the success and sustainability of the creative industry in our state. We encourage our grantees and partners to create an environment of belonging and agency where all individuals, regardless of their abilities or identities, can participate and thrive in the creative economy.