Latest News

Our fight for disability rights — and why we’re not done yet | Judith Heumann

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • LinkedIn

Four decades ago, Judith Heumann helped to lead a groundbreaking protest called the Section 504 sit-in — in which disabled-rights activists occupied a federal building for almost a month, demanding greater accessibility for all. In this personal, inspiring talk, Heumann tells the stories behind the protest — and reminds us that, 40 years on, there's still work left to do.

Check out more TED Talks:

The TED Talks channel features the best talks and performances from the TED Conference, where the world's leading thinkers and doers give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes (or less). Look for talks on Technology, Entertainment and Design — plus science, business, global issues, the arts and more.

Follow TED on Twitter:
Like TED on Facebook:

Subscribe to our channel:

34 Comments on Our fight for disability rights — and why we’re not done yet | Judith Heumann

  1. Dark Horse 2000 // 24th April 2018 at 3:30 pm // Reply



  3. Janet Masiello // 24th April 2018 at 3:33 pm // Reply

    What rights do the disabled not have ?

    • Halo don’t be stupid. It does’t look good on you.

    • SethMacMillan // 24th April 2018 at 4:33 pm // Reply

      +Siddartha02, it may not be the exact same as “You’re not allow in here because of ______”, but lacking accessibility does have implications of either: Lack of consideration for those unable to get in or being too stringent with cash to provide that accessibility.

      And unfortunately, that is a perfectly legal thing to do given proper circumstances. My university has a professor who can only get around via motorized scooter, she’s part of the social sciences. And the social science building is only accessible by stairs. She’s been in the university long enough for them to have built an entirely new building and renovate another, yet they’ve done nothing to provide that access. It may not be their intent, but that can easily be argued as discrimination. She is the only social science professor restricted to one building, and that’s because of her disability.

    • Sybil Holiday // 24th April 2018 at 9:41 pm // Reply

      This has NOTHING to do with the topic, at all. Criminals voided that right by committing a crime. Being disabled IS NOT a crime.

    • Sybil Holiday // 24th April 2018 at 9:43 pm // Reply

      thereal3picanteater, and where the ? did you get that? Sooooo silly. And wrong.

    • SethMacMillan before the ADA disabled would be kicked out of restaurants because “they made people uncomfortable” or they straight up wouldn’t be served so it is exactly the same

  4. JAMES KRAMER // 24th April 2018 at 3:35 pm // Reply

    Thank you, Ms. Heumann! You speak for many who cannot advocate for themselves. You are a true inspiration! Again, *thank you.*

  5. Michael Gusevsky // 24th April 2018 at 3:40 pm // Reply

    Disgusting exam.

  6. Michael Gusevsky // 24th April 2018 at 3:46 pm // Reply

    Thought provoking

  7. luis fernando // 24th April 2018 at 3:56 pm // Reply

    Keep strong thanks for sharing

  8. Stacy Hackney // 24th April 2018 at 4:13 pm // Reply

    Good talk, and informative, thank you.

  9. Hi Judy! This is Ariel! Very inspiring words! Thank you for all the work you have done!

  10. So basicly she got everything she wanted. She could have used the time telling people whats in that bill she wants to be passed but instead went to anecdotes of poor disabled people. I dont know about her, but for my part, as a disabled person, ive been given all the tools (beds, wheelchairs, medicine,therapy) i need to get along and get better. I can never pay that back, and i never felt discrimination from society. There is no law that says “disabled people are excluded”, you simply gotta work harder.

    • @Irek Cz. I am thankful of the people who fought for our support. But as a matter of fact i have every right a human has and it is illegal to discriminate against disabled people. Missing ramps etc is not discrimination.

    • Ok then thats good but not everyone has that and even people like you have it partly because someone saw the problem and acted to fix it. Im sure no one is saying that you or anyone else should try to find discrimination where there isnt any as people often like to do but if there is a problem its good that someone done something to fix it

    • @Sweemops You said you were given all those tools. How did you get them, if not due to laws like the ADA & Rehab Act? I don’t know about you, but for me (also seriously disabled), there are some hard limits to what I can do. There are also some not so hard limits, where through some high cost to me (in terms of e.g. how much energy I would have left to get through the day, or likelihood of risking my health) I can deal with a situation without accommodations… but with accommodations, I would not have that extra cost, or not as high.

      So personally: I support anti-discrimination and pro-accommodation laws and the litigation necessary to give them teeth. I also support disabled people being independent as much as possible. But that doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Your wheelchair isn’t going to get you into a building that only has steps. My guide cane isn’t going let me navigate a subway station with a maze of sighted-only signage. (And teaching myself to cane, which I did in fact do, was not adequate; there were things I didn’t know I didn’t know, and didn’t find out about until I got government-sponsored mobility training.)

      We both want to be independent, but we both need systemic, structural support for that to happen. You seem to take for granted the immense progress that’s been made since the speaker grew up. Maybe your experience is different than mine, but I’m quite keenly aware of the fact that every time I go outside, my ability to act and make decisions for myself can be taken away from me. And it has been, frequently. Litigation is the only real option to make some of it stop.

      That’s not even mentioning the fact that I (and I’d bet every other blind person who navigates w/ cane) get repeatedly assaulted by strangers – randomly grabbed and pulled, my cane moved, etc – every time I go anywhere by myself. That’s several times every day, and there’s fuckall I can do about it until after the fact.

    • Sweemops there is no discrimination because of The ADA….it banned it…plus just because you don’t doesn’t mean there aren’t others who are

    • Actually it is a kind of discrimination but a positive one but its not bad in this case

  11. This is a very informative perspective. Thanks for sharing.

  12. I think they have the same rights but not the same possibility because of their conditions (and the terrible American health care). They have the right to climb the steps but they can’t because they are disabled. As someone said earlier inaccessibility isn’t discrimination. It’s just to hard to make everything accessible, I know a guy who might close his youth hostel because he doesn’t have the money to comply with the new French law for the disabled.

  13. Fantastic!

    I have been in an electric wheelchair for the last 3 years. Spinal injury due to MS. I never really thought about it before but, yes kerbs and steps/stairs into places are the bain of my life!

    My local newly built hospital doesn’t have automatic doors in the corridors or a disabled place in the cafeteria!

    A friends daughter in a wheelchair is being discriminated right now by her school!

    Scotland has a long way to go too! It’s better than years ago, but still needs to further…

  14. Thank you for fighting this for all of us. Any body can become disabled at any point of your life. If you get to old age, you’re going to need this. If you don’t think this is your issue, you’re wrong.

  15. Neha Siddiqui // 24th April 2018 at 5:13 pm // Reply

    The fight against disability is a very long road to go . My brother who is mentally disabled is still labelled as a mad man even after being more responsible than many people. People think these people don’t know anything when only these people can see the reality of this world

  16. Sums up the left, they can have everything they ever wanted, but they will always demand more rights

  17. No rights exist except natural rights.

    Everything else is theft.

  18. P E R P L E X I T Y 1mpr3ss1on // 24th April 2018 at 8:03 pm // Reply

    For real this has to be? I mean its bullshit. Human is Human. Im so sorry that there are people that treat others like garbage. This Video shouldn’t be a thing whatsoever.

  19. Kathryn Shaw // 24th April 2018 at 9:12 pm // Reply

    I still remember saying a prayer for the hundreds of people trapped in “iron lung machines” and stored in an old airplane hanger outside of Washington DC in 1951. A friend of mine, as an adult, only retained enough mobility to throw his wheelchair into his car. He had to type using the eraser on his pencil. In the mid-60s, the whole country was horrified by the mistreatment of elderly and disabled people being wearhoused in “Rest Homes” in Detroit, Michigan. The judges insisted that they didn’t have the laws to enforce appropriate care. It was too obvious! It was too elementary! The country started passing the first of their senior and disability protection laws. However, it’s not enough! My two sons had a rare medical syndrome. Frequently, in Michigan, if you have a medical disorder, the government decides for you that you have a mental health problem. With a “mental health problem”, you are discredited, non-family people can claim you are incapable of caring for yourself, and all of your care and living conditions can suddenly be under the control of people who simply want access to your private/government assets. Governor John Engler got rid of the Michigan Public Health Act and the Michigan Mental Health Hospitals in 1975. (Yeah, he’s the same one who just got put on the board of MSU after that Nassar scandal.) Many of those mental health patients were released on to the streets to die during the winter. The local countys have been trying for more than 40 years to fix his one stupid decision. In places not accredited by the Joint Commission, it’s still possible to find a teenager pretending to be a doctor. It’s legal until they try to write a prescription. One of my sons died in October. Now, I just want to know when they intend to murder my other son. He functions at a genius level, but the state can manipulate him more easily if they classify him as “developmently disabled”. My sons have been written up in international medical journals, but the federal, state and local governments have treated them like trash. Supposedly, I’m depressed because my grandmother taught me to knit while I was still in diapers! Good luck fixing this problem. The money attached makes it easy to subvert.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.


Share This