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Fighting for Disability Rights

Judith Heumann's Talk on Disability Highlights What Needs to Change

— April 25, 2018 — Keynote Trends
Activist and former Special Advisor for International Disability Rights Judith Heumann delivered a talk on disability rights for TED, in which she tells her audience of what has been done to meet accessibility needs so far, as well as what still needs to be done.

Heumann begins her talk by telling of how she contracted polio at a young age, and began facing discrimination from her neighbors in New York. Although a few were kind to her and offered their support to her family, many refused to even walk near their house, in fear of catching the disease themselves. Later on, Heumann was barred from attending school with the rest of her peers, as her lack of mobility was deemed a fire hazard.

Due to the way she was treated growing up, Heumann quickly developed an understanding of just how deep the discrimination against the disabled ran, and was motivated to make a positive impact. With the support of her parents, she campaigned to have the high schools in her area be more accessible, so that she and others with mobility restrictions could attend.

When Heumann went to receive her teaching license at 22, she met all the requirements, but was denied the license due to her disability. Frustrated with the injustice of the decision, she sued the board of education and won her case. She continued her activist efforts, and greatly contributed to the Disability Rights Movement. Although great strides were taken, Heumann shows how far the US still has to go.

Heumann continues by discussing the different laws that have been created to ensure accessible spaces, but highlights just how often they're not enforced. In order to see change, she prompts her audience to push for the enforcement of these laws, to give disabled individuals the opportunities to travel, study, and work where others can. She tells her audience that to push for change, they need to recognize discrimination when they see it, and to speak up for justice.
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