A black and white photo of Judy Heumann as a small child. She is wearing a dress and hitting a watering can while laughing.

Judith "Judy" Heumann was born on December 18th, 1947 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to German-Jewish immigrant parents Ilse and Werner Heumann.


After her family relocated to Brooklyn, NY, Judy contracted polio at 18-months-old. She was in an iron lung for three months and then began using a wheelchair for mobility.

Judy as a child walking with braces on her legs holding two bars


Judy_with Patry Wagner, unknown, Beth Wagner_Brooklyn_c 1952-55

At the age of 5 when registering for kindergarten, Judy was denied the right to attend school. The school was inaccessible and her parents were told she would be a "fire hazard" due to her wheelchair. Instead, the school district sent a teacher to her house for only two and a half hours a week.

After years of her parents fighting the school district, Judy finally attended school in the fourth grade. She was put in a segregated classroom for disabled students.


Judy graduated high school and went on to study at Long Island University. She majored in Speech and Theater with a minor in Education.

Young Judy



Judy applied for her teaching license and passed her written and oral exams, but was failed on her medical exam because she could not walk. She sued the New York Board of Education and Judge Constance Baker Motley (the first Black female to become a Federal Judge) urged the board to reconsider.

Judy was granted her teaching license making her the first wheelchair-user to become a teacher in the state of New York. She taught 2nd grade for two years.


Judy, along with Joan Leon and Ed Roberts, founded the World Institute on Disability.

A black and white photo of Ed Roberts, Joan Leon, and Judy Heumann


Judy Heumann and Jorge Pineda wedding photo

Judy married her husband, Jorge Pineda after meeting at a MIUSA conference the year before in Eugene, Oregon.

1993 to 2001


Judy was appointed by President Clinton to serve as the Assistant Secretary for the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services in the Department of Education. The legislation she helped implement served over 8 million disabled people

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