As Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) since June 1993, Judith E. Heumann and her 350-person staff manage the Office of Special Education Programs, the Rehabilitation Services Administration, and the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, which have a combined budget of over $5.5 billion. Together, these units coordinate and fund programs that impact America's 49 million disabled citizens and directly serve almost 6 million disabled children, youth and adults in virtually every community in America.
Heumann was among those who pioneered modern legislation recognizing that the U.S. Constitution guarantees equality of access and opportunity to persons with disabilities. As legislative assistant to the chairperson of the Senate Committee on Labor and Public Welfare in 1974, she helped develop legislation that became the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
In subsequent years, she helped draft the Americans with Disabilities Act, helped develop regulations for Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and helped design federal and state legislation that led to the creation of more than 200 independent living centers nationwide.
For ten years prior to her appointment as Assistant Secretary, Heumann served as Vice President of the World Institute on Disability (WID) -- the first research center devoted to disability issues -- which she helped establish with Ed Roberts and Joan Leon. She was the director of WID's Research and Training Center on Public Policy in Independent Living.
From 1982 to 1983, Heumann served as special assistant to the executive director of California's State Department of Rehabilitation, where she helped design and administer the Department's policies and programs.
From 1975 to 1982, she served as the deputy director of the Center for Independent Living, the nation's first independent living center, located in Berkeley, California. She continued to serve the center as a member of its board of directors from 1982 to 1993.
She was co-founder and a member of the board of directors of the American Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities; co-founder and president of Disabled in Action; and has served as a member of the board of directors on many public policy and service organizations, including the National Rehabilitation Association, the National Advisory Council of the Center for Women Policy Studies, the National Council on Independent Living, Tools for Living in the Community, and the Over 60s Health Center.
Heumann's deep commitment to the goal of building an inclusive society comes from her own experiences. Since having polio at the age of 18 months, Heumann has known discrimination firsthand. She was denied the right to attend a public school until the fourth grade. She was able to begin her career as a teacher in the New York City school system only after she sued the Board of Education, which had refused to give her a teaching position because she uses a wheel chair.
Since being appointed assistant secretary of education, Heumann has revitalized and initiated nationwide programs to help people with disabilities obtain the knowledge and skills they need to make their individual contributions to society, a goal which is an important part of President Clinton's agenda. Heumann has been working with citizens' groups across the nation -- and with virtually every branch of government -- to make sure that policies and programs designed to meet the goals of education reform and full employment address issues involving disabled people.
Heumann has been also successfully working to make OSERS' programs more accessible to disabled individuals from minority and culturally diverse backgrounds. She is committed to program accountability and to building public awareness of model programs that work.
Heumann has become a de-facto international ambassador for America's disabled community. Among many other duties, she represented Secretary of Education Riley at the 1995 International Congress on Disability in Mexico City and was appointed by President Clinton as a member of the delegation to the Fourth United Nations World Conference on Women in Beijing, China.
She has received numerous honors and awards. Ms. Magazine cited her as "one of 80 women to watch in the 80s," and in 1990, the State of California Legislature named her its Woman of the Year. She was the first recipient of the Henry B. Betts Award for "efforts that significantly improve the quality of life for people with disabilities."
She graduated from Long Island University in 1969 and received an M.A. in public health administration from the University of California at Berkeley in 1975.
Heumann now lives in Washington, D.C., and is married to Jorge Pineda.