The Student News Site of Wilsonville High School

Wilsonville Broadcast Network

The Student News Site of Wilsonville High School

Wilsonville Broadcast Network

The Student News Site of Wilsonville High School

Wilsonville Broadcast Network

Commemorating Judith Heumann and her local impact

Judith Heumann: A woman who revitalized the independence of disabled people and encouraged the community around her by emerging as an advocate. Eulogized for her commendable efforts through literature and speech, the city of Wilsonville carries on Heumann’s work through local community centers and a continuous active voice among citizens.
The Wilsonville Heumann Transition Center location recently opened in the spring of 2023. Conveniently positioned in Wilsonville Town center, this building is open to the public and specializes working with disabled individuals. Photo provided by the district.
The Wilsonville Heumann Transition Center location recently opened in the spring of 2023. Conveniently positioned in Wilsonville Town center, this building is open to the public and specializes working with disabled individuals. Photo provided by the district.

Disability only becomes a tragedy when society fails to provide the things we need to lead our lives.

— Judith Heumann

Since Heumann’s passing on March 4th, 2023, communities have applauded her name in advocacy for the rights of people with disabilities.

From a young age, Heumann became only mobile by wheelchair due to her early diagnosis of polio, which greatly impacted her childhood. 

This wheelchair became a major obstacle as it was considered a “hazard” in school, which prevented Heumann from enrolling as a child. Eventually, she attended a segregated education program for children with disabilities and earned a degree later on. 

The wheelchair continued to challenge Heumann as a teenager applying for her driver’s license, and even landing jobs as a teacher in New York City, since she lacked the convenience of walking. 

Yet, despite the odds, Heumann built a successful career that shaped her legacy. Working both within and outside the government, Heumann thrived among high posts in the Department of Education and Department of State, as well as in disability advocacy organizations. 

Wilsonville’s director of communications, Andrew Kilstrom, can testify to Heumann’s impact on society, specifically the Wilsonville community. 

“Judy Heumann’s work is embedded within our school district’s mission and systems,” Kilstrom shares. 

Kilstrom continues by allocating Heumann’s mark left on Wilsonville High School, which is observable through the model of inclusion, which Heumann embodied through her life-long work. 

All students, regardless of ability, learn alongside their peers in the general education classroom. Our teachers, administrators, students, and community members utilize an equity lens in all things, whether it’s a lesson in class, a school assembly, co-curricular activity, or something else entirely,” Andrew Kilstrom states. 

Wilsonville, as a district and city, has made great efforts to improve classrooms and school facilities to oblige all students. 

In Heumann’s remembrance, an adult transition service building was erected in the commercial part of Wilsonville town center. 

Towards the beginning of 2023, West Linn/Wilsonville’s school board… “Unanimously approved the name of the district’s newest learning center,” Andrew Kilstrom recalls when asked how Judy Heumann came to earn the name of the program.  

Before the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Heumann’s family permitted the use of her name to title the space deservedly in honor of independence, dignity, and equality. They also willingly endorsed the Heumann Center and have been present during the construction process.

Judy Heumann represents a pivotal point in securing civil rights protections for those with disabilities. 

The Heumann Center works with graduates of high school, typically between the ages of 18-21. People involved with the Heumann Center are supported through their transitions to college, work, and/or independent living. 

The Center location is predominantly convenient and accessible by SMART bus services. Kilstrom clarifies, “At The Heumann Center, students with learning and/or physical disabilities gain the skills that will help them in their post-high school life, empowering them with access to college, career and life opportunities,” when describing the vision of the program. 

Leading up to the opening of the Heumann Center, Judith Heumann spent her lifetime as the “mother” of disability rights movements. 

As a younger woman, Heumann worked closely with Brad Lomax, who was a member of the Black Panther Party and disability rights activist like Judy Heumann herself. 

They crossed paths in 1977 while leading protests at the Department of Health Education and Welfare headquarters in San Francisco. Heumann sat in for 26 days for section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, which prohibits disability-based discrimination in federally funded programs and activities.

Along with the Rehabilitation Act, Heumann made waves in other organizations, such as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. 

These movements broke ground with legislation and at the federal level, which propelled Heumann to submerge herself deeper into these causes. 

She picked up a role as Special Advisor for International Disability Rights at the US Department of State, where she tirelessly worked to improve opportunities in public education that include people with disabilities. 

For these efforts, she continued to earn accolades, such as being named a “Pioneer of the Disability Rights Movement,” according to Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke. 

Many of the freedoms people experience today were not simple realities for Americans only years ago. Basic rights and equality have been drastically perpetuated by Heumann through her steadfast belief in all people, regardless of disabilities they may possess or experience. 

Not only does Heumann’s voice carry among communities, but her life experiences add volume to her opinions and reveal how often society takes things for granted. 

Although Judy Heumann’s obstacle was her wheelchair, other students may be facing adversity with vision, hearing, etc. Wilsonville High School can choose to continue encouraging the inclusion of everyone, just as Heumann spent her life preaching to the world. 

Though passed, Heumann remains prevalent, and anyone can hear her active voice through the effects of her service to the community. Along with moments now shared by friends and family of Heumann, her words have been encapsulated through her documentary ‘Crimp Cramp,’ and her book titled ‘Being Heumann: An Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Rights Activist.’ 

It’s the hope of Andrew Kilstrom and others to carry on Heumann’s legacy by reminding people not to be defined by a disability. Kilstrom says, “Judy Heumann will continue to serve our community and communities across the nation through her spirit, determination, and tenacious commitment to all people.” 

American journalist and social-political activist Gloria Steinem shares publicly, “It’s one of the ironies of American life that the one category into which almost all of us will fit at some time in our lives—people with disabilities—is often the last on the list of included groups in this country. I met Judy Heumann almost four decades ago, and her writing, activist skills, and kindness helped me to see this simple truth. Her life story as an activist will enlighten readers everywhere.”

The Heumann Center in Wilsonville welcomes people through their doors with hospitality. As this program grows and expands, Judith Heumann’s advocacy continues to live on through her echoing legacy.