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Statement on the Passing of Judy Heumann

MARCH 04, 2023

Two white women and one Indian woman smile together at a summit

© HI

Humanity & Inclusion mourns the passing of Judith Heumann, a beloved member of the U.S. Board of Humanity & Inclusion. 

Judy was unflinching in demanding equal rights for Americans with disabilities. She poured her advocacy expertise, lived experience, energy and compassion into seeing those same American rights extended to persons with disabilities in every country. She continually lent her powerful voice to the global disability rights movement. Her legacy is a global one, which will continue to effect positive change for people with disabilities worldwide. 

“Her international reputation as a vigorous, effective human rights advocate etches her in history,” says Jeff Meer, U.S. Executive Director of Humanity & Inclusion. “She was an extraordinary and visionary leader who understood that no dream is impossible.” 

Judy was a generous mentor to young activists with disabilities and inspired generations to realize the very rights she fought so hard to secure.  

"Judy dragged me kicking and screaming into the disability rights movement, and I have loved her dearly every day since,” says John Lancaster, a founding member of the U.S. Board. “She convinced me to become Executive Director of the Paralyzed Veterans of America."

While at the U.S. Department of State as Special Advisor for International Disability Rights, she worked to both embed the tenets of the ADA in the Department, but also encouraged an inclusive approach to U.S. foreign policy work done by the State Department and USAID.  

Judy joined the U.S. Board of Humanity & Inclusion in 2017, supporting the global NGO’s efforts to respond to the essential needs of persons with disabilities, improve their living conditions, and promote respect for dignity and fundamental rights.

“There is no doubt that Judy left her mark on Humanity & Inclusion,” recalls U.S. Board President Nancy Kelly. “We’ll miss her energy, persistence, and humor. Judy worked hard to make Humanity & Inclusion itself more inclusive, insisting that the U.S. board and the organization set high expectations for its global inclusion projects and advocacy.” 

Photo: HI's Economic Inclusion Technical Advisor Meritt Buyer, HI-US Board Member Judy Heumann and Shanthi Krishnamurthi, from HI's partner V-Sesh, at the 2022 Harkin Summit in Belfast.

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