Disability rights advocate to present to Mizzou

Judy Heumann, a civil rights activist, author and featured subject of the Oscar-nominated documentary “Crip Camp,” will speak to the Mizzou community via Zoom on Wednesday, Nov. 17.

Editor's note: This story was updated Nov. 19, 2021, to include a recording of the presentation.

Nov. 15, 2021
Contact: Deidra Ashley, ashleyde@missouri.edu

Judy Heumann is one of the biggest names in the disability world, and she’s coming to campus (virtually) this week. She will talk about her experiences advocating for herself and other citizens with disabilities from 2 to 3 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 17, in a virtual event that is free to attend.

Heumann was instrumental in pushing Congress to enact major disability rights legislation and played a key role in the mainstreaming of disability rights into international development. She is perhaps most recognizable from her participation in the Oscar-nominated documentary, Crip Camp, which is available on Netflix. She also recently released her memoir, Being Heumann: An Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Rights Activist. The book was recently featured in the MU School of Law’s One Read Program. After hearing about the impact Heumann’s advocacy had on members of the disability community, librarian Cindy Bassett spearheaded an effort to bring Heumann to Mizzou.

The virtual discussion will be co-moderated by Amber Cheek, MU’s director of accessibility and ADA coordinator, and Mizzou alumna Ellie Stitzer.

photo of Judy Heumann and Ellie Stitzler at an outdoor event

Alumna Ellie Stitzer (right) met Heumann (left) while she was an intern with the American Association of People with Disabilities in Washington, D.C. The two have kept in touch since.

Mizzou is where Stitzer said she discovered her passion for disability rights. “Learning about Judy’s work is one of the reasons I decided to go to law school — so I could be a part of the movement she helped to start. It feels kind of magical to be able to speak with Judy, my inspiration, and Amber, my mentor, now that I am about to complete my JD,” Stitzer said. “My freshman-year self would be pretty stoked to know this is where I’ve ended up.”

Olivia Holler, the vice president of adaptability and accessibility for the Mizzou Disability Coalition, said she hopes the larger Mizzou community makes time to attend Heumann’s presentation. “Accessibility impacts everyone — not just the disabled community,” she said. “I’m very excited to hear Judy present and I look forward to hearing her story.”

Heumann contracted polio in 1949 in Brooklyn, New York, and began using a wheelchair for her mobility. At age 5, she was denied the right to attend school because she was considered “a fire hazard.” Her parents played a strong role in fighting for her rights as a child, but Heumann soon began collaborating with other people with disabilities to advocate for their rights. She has played a key role in the development and implementation of many major pieces of legislation, including the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

“Learning about Judy’s work lit a fire in me,” Stitzer said. “It made me realize, for the first time, my potential to be an advocate for my community and to make change. If nothing else, I hope the audience leaves with a similar fire and a recognition of the power that each of us holds.”

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