Sunday, March 5, 2023

Judy Heumann, 1947-2023

 Yesterday Judy Heumann officially acquired angel status.

Judy always knew what the right thing was to do. But she also knew, it would take more than one person to make something right to happen. She was a human Rolodex, the best connector of others, and the best button pusher to make right things come about.

She was super human. I’m not sure that she ever slept. She would call people at all times of the day and at night. Sometimes just to see how they were feeling, but often also to motivate them. 

Her geo-political reach was unmatched in the disability rights arena. She had genuine relationships with disability advocates across the globe. They knew when Judy called, texted, or sent an email it was for a good reason and they were committed to action. 

She had the best intuitive sense of why certain people needed to get to know each other. Perhaps for personal growth, but more likely to combine forces to bring about needed change. 

She knew that for disability rights to be understood and to flourish younger generations needed to be nurtured and included. So many young people saw Judy as a mentor and friend. 

She had vast audiences and platforms. She recognized educating others about disability rights was an incremental process. She realized words alone were not enough, books alone were not enough. She saw the timely value in public speaking, social media, blogs, documentaries, and film. 

She wanted legislation to create a permanent disability advisor in the State Department, with staff, money, and clout to become law, but it did not. 

Now is our turn to act. To honor Judy and give traction to her energy, passion, and legacy, let’s get that legislation passed. Judy is above us now, watching over us. Let’s not let her down. Reach out to all Members of Congress to pass the legislation quickly to honor Judy Heumann and provide a catalyst for what she so tirelessly fought. 

When Judy was in a room the electricity was palpable. When Judy was on a zoom call, ears waited for Judy to speak. Brains waited to process what she said. 

Though we no longer have direct access to her wisdom, we know what we need to say and do. 

Remind others that disability rights is nonpartisan, that access without meaningful inclusion is of marginal value, and that planning anything without people with disabilities at the table is not smart and likely, costly. 

We will miss Judy. She does not want tears. She wants action.

Pat Morrissey