A Conversation with Judith Heumann: Students, Disability Rights, and Social Justice
Services to Students with Disabilities (SSD) hosted the event A Conversation with Judith Heumann: Students, Disability Rights, and Social Justice on Feb. 3. Judith is an internationally recognized disability activist who played a role in the development and implementation of major legislation, including the IDEA, Section 504, the Americans with Disability Act, and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
“We thought it very important at this crossroads in our country’s history that our students, most of whom were born after the ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act] was enacted, understand the fight for disability rights and that it is possible for a small group of people to positively impact the lives of millions of individuals with disabilities," remarked Marci Daniels, Director of SSD and WorkAbility IV.
After the event, students inspired and empowered by Judith began organizing to get student signatures on the “Tell LACCD [Los Angeles Community College District] to Back Off the Americans with Disabilities Act” petition. The pressure from the petition and protests resulted in the LACCD withdrawing their intention to bring the case before the Supreme Court.
The most poignant moment of the event was when Andrew Hunter, a PDC student, thanked Judith for the groundwork and foundation that she laid, which allowed him to have an equal and accessible learning environment today. Judith appeared to initially be taken off guard by the remark, but then a huge smile appeared on her face, and in that moment, everyone present at the event realized the impact of her work and the far reaching impact it had on disabled students today. It was a full-circle moment.
During the event, six students participated in a panel that interviewed Judith:
- MaKelsey Sibille, B.A. in French and Francophone Studies (candidate)
- Andrew Hunter, B.A. in History (candidate)
- Nicole Nishanian, J.D., M.S. in Special Education (candidate)
- Samantha Santos, B.A. in Admin Human Resources (candidate)
- Abby Valencia, M.A. in Rehabilitation Counseling (candidate)
The students asked Judith a variety of questions, such as what advice she had for the future generation, as well as her thoughts about special education and future advocacy for disability rights.