Today, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona issued the following statement on the passing of Disability Rights Leader Judy Heumann:
“On March 4, our country lost a great disability rights leader with the passing of Judith (Judy) Heumann. As Assistant Secretary for the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services during the Clinton Administration, Judy helped ensure that students with disabilities not only had the right to physically attend public school, but that such students had the right to learn the same curriculum as their non-disabled peers. Her leadership is realized in the nearly 20 percentage point jump from 2000 to 2023 in the number of students with disabilities who graduate with a standard high school diploma. Judy’s legacy also includes influencing the publication of the regulations implementing Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that bars discrimination against disabled people in federally funded programs.
“Judy Heumann’s devotion to public education for all students was second to none. After she had polio as a toddler, her parents had to fight to enroll her in public school. When she graduated from college, she had to sue the New York Board of Education to validate that using a wheelchair did not prohibit a person from being a qualified teacher. One of her last speaking engagements was on Martin Luther King Jr. Day to a group of middle and high school students on the connection between the disability rights movement and the civil rights movement.
“Judy was always an educator, always a trailblazer, always a leader. We send our deepest condolences to her husband, Jorge Pineda; her brothers, Ricky and Joseph; and her extended family. Her memory will forever be a blessing.”