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Being Heumann
Cover of Being Heumann
Being Heumann
An Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Rights Activist
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A Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year for Nonfiction
"...an essential and engaging look at recent disability history."— Buzzfeed
One of the most influential disability rights activists in US history tells her personal story of fighting for the right to receive an education, have a job, and just be human.
A story of fighting to belong in a world that wasn’t built for all of us and of one woman’s activism—from the streets of Brooklyn and San Francisco to inside the halls of Washington—Being Heumann recounts Judy Heumann’s lifelong battle to achieve respect, acceptance, and inclusion in society.
Paralyzed from polio at eighteen months, Judy’s struggle for equality began early in life. From fighting to attend grade school after being described as a “fire hazard” to later winning a lawsuit against the New York City school system for denying her a teacher’s license because of her paralysis, Judy’s actions set a precedent that fundamentally improved rights for disabled people.
As a young woman, Judy rolled her wheelchair through the doors of the US Department of Health, Education, and Welfare in San Francisco as a leader of the Section 504 Sit-In, the longest takeover of a governmental building in US history. Working with a community of over 150 disabled activists and allies, Judy successfully pressured the Carter administration to implement protections for disabled peoples’ rights, sparking a national movement and leading to the creation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Candid, intimate, and irreverent, Judy Heumann’s memoir about resistance to exclusion invites readers to imagine and make real a world in which we all belong.
A Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year for Nonfiction
"...an essential and engaging look at recent disability history."— Buzzfeed
One of the most influential disability rights activists in US history tells her personal story of fighting for the right to receive an education, have a job, and just be human.
A story of fighting to belong in a world that wasn’t built for all of us and of one woman’s activism—from the streets of Brooklyn and San Francisco to inside the halls of Washington—Being Heumann recounts Judy Heumann’s lifelong battle to achieve respect, acceptance, and inclusion in society.
Paralyzed from polio at eighteen months, Judy’s struggle for equality began early in life. From fighting to attend grade school after being described as a “fire hazard” to later winning a lawsuit against the New York City school system for denying her a teacher’s license because of her paralysis, Judy’s actions set a precedent that fundamentally improved rights for disabled people.
As a young woman, Judy rolled her wheelchair through the doors of the US Department of Health, Education, and Welfare in San Francisco as a leader of the Section 504 Sit-In, the longest takeover of a governmental building in US history. Working with a community of over 150 disabled activists and allies, Judy successfully pressured the Carter administration to implement protections for disabled peoples’ rights, sparking a national movement and leading to the creation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Candid, intimate, and irreverent, Judy Heumann’s memoir about resistance to exclusion invites readers to imagine and make real a world in which we all belong.
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About the Author-
  • Judith Heumann is an internationally recognized leader in the Disability Rights Independent Living Movement. Her work with a wide range of activist organizations (including the Berkeley Center for Independent Living and the American Association of People with Disabilities), NGOs, and governments since the 1970s has contributed greatly to the development of human rights legislation and policy benefiting disabled people. She has advocated for disability rights at home and abroad, serving in the Clinton and Obama administrations and as the World Bank's first adviser on disability and development. Connect with her on Twitter (@judithheumann) and Facebook (TheHeumannPerspective).
    Kristen Joiner is an award-winning entrepreneur in the global nonprofit and social change sector. Her writing on empowerment, inclusion and human rights has been published in numerous outlets including the Stanford Social Innovation Review. Connect with her on Twitter (@kristenjoiner).
Reviews-
  • Kirkus

    December 15, 2019
    A driving force in the passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act looks back on a long career of activism. "An Occupation Army of Cripples Has Taken Over the San Francisco Federal Building." So shouted a newspaper headline in the wake of one particularly vocal protest. According to disability rights activist Heumann, that was fine. "People weren't used to thinking of us as fighters--when they thought about us at all," she observes. Until the 1980s, disabled people were largely made invisible, with no easy means of access to the systems of transportation, employment, and other goods that the rest of the population often takes for granted. The author, who was paralyzed after a bout of childhood polio, might have been shunted off to an institution, as one doctor recommended, which was the usual practice in 1949. Instead, her parents, orphans of the Holocaust, resisted. The system did not make much allowance for her outside such an institution. At first, she was taught by a teacher who came to her home for two and a half hours a week, then sent to "Health Conservation 21," a New York school system program in which students were expected to remain "until we were twenty-one years old, at which point we were supposed to enter a sheltered workshop." Instead, Heumann distinguished herself academically and got involved in the drafting of legislation that would effectively add disability to the classes of protected citizens under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. To do so, she had to make the case that "discrimination against disabled people existed," something that many people did not wish to acknowledge. Then she had to find allies inside government on top of battling a host of foes, including conservative politicians and businesses "worried about what ADA would cost, in time and money." Heumann prevailed, and following passage of the ADA after years of agitation, she worked for the World Bank and was appointed a representative of the Obama administration to advance civil rights for disabled persons internationally. A welcome account of politics in action, and for the best of causes.

    COPYRIGHT(2019) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    February 1, 2020

    Heumann shares her story as a lifelong disability rights advocate, from her mother's fight for her daughter's right to get an education to Heumann's time in the White House as the first Special Advisor for International Disability Rights. In this memoir, she shares her frustrations at a world that was not built with everyone in mind, a world that frequently sought to exclude her and others like her from active participation in society. Instead of stewing in frustration, Heumann embarked on a lifelong journey to dismantle the ableist society and create a more accessible world. Heumann's personality shines throughout. Her voice is witty, persistent, and at times irreverent as she immerses readers in her story and highlights how similar we all are. Her tale is one of perseverance against discrimination, and the right of all people to pursue a full and fulfilling life. VERDICT Ideal for readers interested in the history of the disability rights movement and the impact of personal activism.--Ahliah Bratzler, Indianapolis P.L.

    Copyright 2020 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from February 17, 2020
    In this empowering debut, disability rights activist Heumann reveals her indomitable spirit as she battled prejudice and discrimination to gain equal opportunity. Recognizing that Americans with disabilities were “generally invisible in the daily life of society,” Heumann, who was paralyzed by polio at 18 months in 1949, fought for inclusion in everyday activities, believing “it was the government’s responsibility to ensure that everyone could participate equally in our society.” Fighting to go to elementary school in Brooklyn after being called “a fire hazard,” she first attended a segregated special education class before attending regular high school. Heumann attended Long Island University, where she led various student protests; after college, she won a lawsuit against the New York City Board of Education for denying her a teacher’s license because of her condition. In 1977, she helped organize a 24-day sit-in at the San Francisco office of U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, which pressured the Carter administration to finally execute protections for disabled people, eventually leading to passage of the American with Disabilities Act (“since we’d been left out of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, we needed our own Civil Rights Act”). Thoughtful and illuminating, this inspiring story is a must-read for activists and civil rights supporters.

  • Booklist

    February 1, 2020
    The title says it all: disability-rights activist Heumann is human, though some may think her superhuman. One of the nearly 43,000 U.S. children affected by the 1949 polio epidemic, she is a paraplegic who has used a wheelchair since childhood. Fortunately, she grew up with remarkable parents, orphaned by the Holocaust, who refused to institutionalize her. Chillingly, she notes that Hitler's pilot project for what became mass genocide started with disabled children. But even in America, she faced many hurdles. In 1977, Heumann helped stage a historic sit-in over the failure to enforce section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, which prohibits excluding anyone from a program that receives federal funds. The activists' pressure set the stage for the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, which is now in peril, Heumann notes, from a president who shut down the ADA pages on the White House website. Consider this book an inspiring call for inclusiveness, courage, equity, and justice as well as a reminder of people's power to change the world for the better.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2020, American Library Association.)

  • Publishers Weekly, Starred Review "Thoughtful and illuminating, this inspiring story is a must-read for activists and civil rights supporters."
  • Kirkus Reviews "A driving force in the passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act looks back on a long career of activism . . . A welcome account of politics in action, and for the best of causes."
  • Booklist "Consider this book an inspiring call for inclusiveness, courage, equity, and justice as well as a reminder of people's power to change the world for the better."
  • Library Journal "Heumann's personality shines throughout. Her voice is witty, persistent, and at times irreverent as she immerses readers in her story."
  • Darren Walker, president, Ford Foundation "With an energetic pace and a youthful voice, Ali Stroker narrates disability rights activist Judith Heumann's memoir. . . . Along with her friend and mentor, the late Ed Roberts, Heumann is a freedom fighter Americans need to know. This audiobook makes getting acquainted a delight."
  • Hillary Clinton "A moving chronicle of social change, Being Heumann will restore your hope in our democracy and the power of our shared humanity."
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Being Heumann
An Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Rights Activist
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