Judy Heumann was born in 1947 physically normal. At eighteen months she contracted Polio leaving her in a wheelchair. Heumann faced many prejudices while growing up disabled. The school refused to allow her to attend, calling her a fire hazard. It wasn't until the fourth grade, after Heumanns mother had fought a hard battle, that she was allowed to go to school.
Heumann's early struggles prepared her for the New York City Board of Education's refusal to allow her to teach, which was based solely on the fact she was disabled. Heumann sued and won. She taught elementary school for three years. It was due to this incident that Heumann, with several other disabled friends, founded Disabled in Action. Its goal was to secure protection for the disabled under civil rights laws.
Disabled in Action was only the first of a long string of organizations which Heumann would be actively involved with. She became a legislative assistant to the chairperson of the senate committee on Labor and Public Welfare in 1974. While there she helped develop legislation that became the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. From 1975 through 1982 Heumann served as the deputy director of the Center for Independent Living. From 1982 to 1983 she was the special assistant to the executive director of Californias State Department of Rehabilitation. There she helped design, and administer the departments policies and programs. In 1983 Heumann co-founded the World Institute on Disabilities (WID) with Ed Roberts. For more than ten years she was the vice president of WID and director of its Research and Training Center on Public Policy in Independent Living division. In 1990 she helped draft the landmark piece of legislation, The Americans with Disabilities Act. She has also helped develop regulations for the section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. She helped design federal and state legislation that led to the creation of more than 200 independent living centers nation wide. She is the co-founder of the American Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities. Heumann has served on many boards of directors including: the National Rehabilitation Association, the National Advisory Council of the Center for Womens Policy Studies, and the National Council on Independent Living, Tools for Living in the Community. She was recently appointed by President Clinton as a member of the delegation to the fourth United Nations World Conference on Women in Beijing, China. She is also the receiver of many awards including the Henry B. Betts Award.
Judy Heumann is truly a dedicated advocate and reformer for the disabled. She has dedicated her life to righting the wrongs done to the disabled. Since 1993 she has been the Assistant Secretary of Education in charge of the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation. She is currently married to Jorge Pineda and is living in Washington, D.C.