Statement from ICS President and CEO Regina Martinez-Estela on the passing of Judy Heumann

For immediate release

NEW YORK, March 6, 2023 — This weekend we lost a tremendous voice and human being in Judy Heumann, a stalwart advocate for people with disabilities and civil rights leader whose tireless work led to her being considered by many to be “the mother of the disability rights movement.”

Judy was a vibrant, intelligent and passionate New Yorker whose tenacity and commitment to preserving the rights of people with disabilities inspired a generation and led to lasting results for the community.

She admirably served as assistant secretary of the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services during President Bill Clinton’s administration, and worked as the first special advisor for international disability rights at the State Department during the administration of President Barack Obama, highlighting the challenges and barriers people with disabilities faced on a national level.

Her fight for inclusion started early in her life, and it never waivered. She was at the front lines lobbying for legislation to support a community often marginalized and ignored. Her efforts led to a number of significant breakthrough victories, including the Rehabilitation Act, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Those victories cannot be overstated, and her influence in those results is undeniable.

ICS had the privilege of having Judy speak to our membership on many occasions over the years, and she served as a special guest speaker as part of our organizational series on diversity, equity and inclusion last year. The event remains in my mind to this day. We as an organization had viewed the documentary Crip Camp, produced by Barack and Michelle Obama’s Higher Ground Productions, which she was featured in. She shared her inspirational personal story and her experience as a disability rights advocate, and discussed how the experience at Camp Jened inspired her, and others, to become activists in their own right. Having her as guest moved myself and our staff and inspired us to continue fulfilling ICS’ mission of ensuring people with disabilities can live healthy, independent lives in their communities, by supporting their health, mobility and independence.

We are all so much better off because of Judy’s efforts, action and wisdom, and she has left a legacy that will never be forgotten. May she rest in peace.


Contact: Chris Engelhardt