- By: Janet Roche & Carolyn Robbins
- Hosted By: Janet Roche
- Edited by: Andrew Parrella
- Guest: Judy Heumann
Judy Heumann is here! Judy Heumann is here! Inclusive Designers Podcast is very excited to share our inspiring interview with THE Judy Heumann… celebrated civil rights activist, advocate, and rolling warrior. She has been called “the mother of the disability rights movement” and “an activist who doesn’t take crap, never did.” Judy is best known for leading the charge of disabled activists that sparked the creation of Section 504 and the ADA. IDP talks to Judy about her lifelong struggle to overcome discrimination, and what designers need to know to make changes that benefit both disabled and non-disabled people. And yes, Janet even asks her (way in advance) to meet in person in 2023 to celebrate as the ‘Rehabilitation Act of 1973’ turns 50!
Guest: Judy Heumann- is a lifelong advocate for the rights of disabled people. She has been instrumental in the development and implementation of legislation, such as Section 504, the Individuals with Education Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act, and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Her memoir,“Being Heumann: An Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Rights Activist,” was published in 2020. She is also featured in the Oscar-nominated documentary, Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution. Judy produces a podcast called The Heumann Perspective, which features a variety of members from the disability community.
• Website: www.judithheumann.com
• Podcast: The Heumann Perspective Podcast
• Documentary Film: Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution
• Washington Post article: She’s considered the mother of disability rights — and she’s a ‘badass’
Disability Rights and Design – Insights from Judy Heumann
Guest: Judy Heumann
Music / Open
Janet: In this series we will be discussing specific examples of design techniques that make a positive difference for people living with certain human conditions.
Carolyn: The more a designer understands the client and or the community the more effective and respectful the design will be.
Music / Intro
Janet: Welcome to Inclusive Designers Podcast, I am your host, Janet Roche
Carolyn: and I am your moderator, Carolyn Robbins.
Janet: We have an incredible show for you today, right Carolyn?
Carolyn: Yes, we do! Maybe even more than usual!
Janet: I think so! We have the disability rights warrior herself, Judy Heumann, or as we have been referring to her around here as… THE Judy Heumann.
The Washington Post called her the “Godmother of the ADA; and one bad… I’m not quite sure can I say the last word, but it’s a 3-letter word beginning with an A and ending with a double-S, or another word for a donkey” (laughs).
Carolyn: Technically, you didn’t say it, The Washington Post did, but I know what you mean.
Janet: Well, getting back to our very special guest, Judy will tell us about her life as a disabilities’ activist, from the early days before the 504 and the ADA even existed, to where we are now, and to also look ahead to what should be happening on a more global basis.
Carolyn: As for her credentials… Judy is an is an internationally recognized disability rights advocate and a leader in the disabled community. She has been fighting against discrimination all her life.
She organized protests in college to gain access to classrooms. After graduation, she sued and won the lawsuit against the NYC school system that let her become the first teacher to use a wheelchair in that state.
Judy led the charge of disabled activists for rights that led to the creation of Section 504 and the ADA. Later on, she served in both the Clinton and Obama Administrations. She was also featured in the award-winning documentary “Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution”.
More recently, she published her memoir: “Being Heumann: An Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Rights Activist,”. and a Young Adult version called “Rolling Warrior.”
And last, but certainly not least in our book, she is currently the host and producer of her own podcast, ‘The Heumann Perspective’. She really has done so much.
Janet: She sure has, I couldn’t agree more. And I’ll add that Judy strives to eliminate the discrimination and physical barriers disabled people of all ages, with all types of disabilities, are facing, both in the United States and around the world.
Carolyn: And you know, her busy office didn’t take a break while we interviewed her, you may even hear the sound of justice being made in the background…
Janet: So true, and you know, like me, Judy grew up in Brooklyn! shout out to Brooklyn. But this was at a time when there were no considerations for disability or inclusion. She helped put much of what you see in place today. But we’ll let her tell you all about that, and more, in her own words.
Carolyn: And with that, here is our interview with THE Judy Heumann, civil rights activist, and lifelong advocate for the rights of disabled people…
Music / Interview
Janet: Hi, and welcome to inclusive designers. I’m your host, Janet Roche. And today we have THE legend, Judy Heumann. (Judy: Hello). We’ve been calling you ‘THE’ Judy Heumann just to emphasize it to people that we’re talking to about that we were going to talk to you today. Judy, thank you so much.
Judy: Thank you for inviting me onto the program.
Janet: Let’s kind of dive right on in, because there’s a lot to talk about. And I just want to say inclusive designers would not be a thing if you hadn’t pushed that needle, right, made sure that everybody was paying attention. When you, before you started with the 504 and your sit-in and what were things like?
I know that you write a lot in your book about that you recognized it. Did you recognize it was discrimination right away? Or you just, did you think it was just unfair? And then did you see ways that people like, why didn’t they do things the way they’re trying to do things now? Like, can you talk a little bit about that?
Judy: Sure. Let me start by saying that there’s so many people who’ve been involved in our movement in the United States and around the world. And I am one of those people, but I never take credit for everything that’s happened.
And at the end of the day, you know, you, Janet and Carolyn, really are the ones who’ve been driving forward the work that you’ve been doing. And I think maybe myself and many other people have helped to open spaces that maybe weren’t as available in the past. But I think it’s still important to say that we, from my perspective, are not yet where we need to go.
Janet: Right. And we’ll dive into that. I see the gaps, I’m sure you not only see the gaps, you know the gaps by heart. So, I love the fact that you like your parents were, were such kind of a rebel rousers, especially your mom like, she was just not having anything that any of the school boards and everything like that was going to throw at you.
When did things start to really click in for you that you thought, I mean, you’re a smart woman. So obviously you probably thought this is unfair, but like what was sort of the impetus was, I mean, we also saw the movie ‘Crip Camp’. Was that sort of the beginning of your ‘aha’ moments, like this is going to have to change or, do you want to talk me through that?
Judy: Sure. So I had polio when I was 18 months old. And like other people who had their disabilities when they were younger, you know, you really don’t understand what’s going on, obviously. And that was something that I gradually, and I would say 6, 7, 8, 9 years old was becoming more aware of the fact that I, in my family and in the neighborhood that I grew up in, I was treated really as an equal to my brothers and neighbors. But when it came to school, as an example, I was not treated equally. (J: Right). Kids at 5, parents took them to school. They got enrolled in school and they went to school every day. But me, that’s not what happened.
Janet: Right. Yeah. You talk about a lot of this, and they called you a fire hazard. It was really, really horrible. Then they, they said, well, we can give you instruction it at home, right. and I couldn’t understand, was it two hours a week or something like that. And it, was cross stitching involved. Maybe you could tell a little bit about that story as well.
Judy: Yes. So when the principal and the school said that I couldn’t go there, told my mom not to worry because the Board of Ed in New York City would send a teacher to my house. Well, they did, but not in kindergarten. And they did for the first, second, third and half of the fourth grade. (J: wow). And they came twice a week, once for an hour, once for an hour and a half. And then at some point, I say it’s as, a, for good behavior, they threw in an OT who was teaching me sewing. (J: Right). So, that went on until the middle of the fourth grade.
When I finally got into a program that was only for disabled children in a regular school, but special classes. And getting involved in that program was the first time I was ever with any other disabled people. I didn’t know any other disabled people really until that point. And the first year, I believe that I went to school in these segregated classes, I also went to camp, not camp Jened but camp Oakhurst. So I went to camp Oakhurst in New Jersey for a couple of summers. And then as I was getting a little older, I started going to camp Jened.
So I was learning from my other friends also that we, in coming together, it also allowed us an opportunity to speak to each other and to realize that not only that we were being treated differently than our brothers, our cousins, our neighbors, but the discrimination that we were experiencing. (J: yeah). So I think the issue of discrimination is also something that we hadn’t talked about earlier as kids.
So I think, you know, what was important for me being with other disabled people is realizing that I wasn’t alone. And then I also was learning from other people that we all felt very similarly. That we were not being treated equally. And we were beginning to talk about why that was, and I think really at a pretty early age and like an age-appropriate way, we were not only talking about the barriers, but we were beginning to think about solutions. (J: hmmm).
And I think that definitely is something that we continue to discuss today. (J: right). That there are so many issues and different solutions. And obviously over the last, you know, 74 years of my life, there have been lots of different kinds of solutions for many different issues and in some areas solutions that haven’t been implemented. (J: right).
We look at things like how many community-based services (J: uh huh), or personal assistance services, this system is quite problematic and the number of people who need to be getting benefits from the government is way underserved and the risks that people are taking because they’re not getting sufficient personal assistant services and how that limits our ability to work and go to school and participate in society.
We, we know the solutions. (J: Right). The government has not put sufficient amounts of money. And then of course, some of the, um, criteria around how to get on things like Medicaid, all of those are still issues that (J: huge), we understand the solutions we just haven’t implemented them.
Janet: Right. And all that healthcare is all important to people’s health and wellbeing and which should be everybody’s right.
I just want to let listeners know that one of the reasons why we’re talking about this, as inclusive designers, I don’t think we can talk about the physical environment without talking about advocacy for the people that we serve. So that is why we want to talk to you today, Judy and get your perspective.
So then let’s jump forward to the, when the— I’m going to get this right— The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which by the way, I have decided I am coming in September of 2023, I’m going to, I’m going to find you and we’re going to go out and we’re going to have a good time just letting you know. (Judy: Okay).
So the, the 5-0-, um, so now I totally forgot, now that I’ve asked you out on a date, I forgot my question for the, for the 504. That’s actually coming up is the 50th anniversary. And one of the things you talk about in the book, which is “Being Heumann” and we’ll also have that on our website, links to, being able to get the book. It’s “Being Heumann: An Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Rights Activist” that’s by our guest today, Judy Heumann.
And I thought it was fascinating that, and I want to ask you a couple of questions about that time frame because there was this man that was brought in by Jimmy Carter, his name is Joseph Califano, is that right? (Judy: yes). Alright, just so we’re clear, we can’t swear on the show. So this is going to be where, like, I am going to try really hard not to do it. He was, um, difficult. Did you think that, like, did he, did he not read any of it? I think even when he cited it, I got the impression, he was just like, whatever, get out of my offices. Like, is that, did you get that impression, or…
Judy: So Joe Califano was the Secretary of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. (J: right). And when the American Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities organized demonstrations around the country, I was one of the members on the board. And we were organizing to hold regional demonstrations.
When the demonstration started in San Francisco, the regional secretary was a man named Joe Maldonado. (J: right). And Maldonado did not know what the regulations were. (J: No). His staff didn’t know. Califano did. I wouldn’t say he was an expert on them, but he knew about them, and he knew what they were.
He had brought a team of people in to review. And the issue for us, wasn’t the fact that he was reviewing the draft regulations. Because it had been a Republican administration, was now a democratic administration. So wanting to do a quick review, that was like appropriate. But what we began to hear is that Califano had a number of concerns…
Janet: Excuse me, I’m sorry, wasn’t one of the concerns that they thought somehow the United States economy would tank with these new regulations… that was not it, you’re shaking your head. Okay, I’m sorry, go ahead.
Judy: No, I mean, I think, um, he had brought a team of knowledgeable people in to do a review. But at the same time, he was hearing from lobbyists, from hospital associations, higher education associations, and others, who were talking about how this was going to be so terrible, and how costly it was going to be. And, Gerald Ford, who was the president prior to Jimmy Carter. He could have signed the regulation, but he didn’t because he said it’d be too costly, and he wouldn’t do it.
So you’re not far off in what you’re saying, (J: Right). But I think the reality of course was that was not true. And especially because the way the regulations were written, uh, there was not an expectation for example, that any building that had received federal money, like a school or a hospital or university, that overnight they would make themselves accessible. That was never the expectation. (J: right).
And when people look at the regulations, you can see that there are many steps. I don’t mean literally steps but many, (J: laughs, right, yeah). Which I think really was done in such a way to make the intent of the law be carried out in a way that wouldn’t adversely affect our ability to keep the law.
So things like a new building would have to be built accessible. Major innovations would have to be accessible. Um, not every building would have to be made accessible overnight. (J: Right).
Janet: And were they also trying to exclude schools or universities at some point, wasn’t that part of the conversation. It was, they were trying to just maybe do federal buildings, but the universities were allowed to do their own thing for a while. It was that whole separate but equal part of it.
Judy: Yes. Well, one of the issues that we were concerned about is the way they were discussing potential changes to the draft regulations that would have, uh, enabled kids and college students not to have the same choices as others. (J: right).
So in the film ‘Crip Camp’, we talk about how we’re not going to accept separate but equal. (J: yeah). And I think the regulations really had a good balance of what needed to happen to ensure that students would not be segregated, at the same time that all schools were not going to have to make it accessible overnight.
Janet: Right, yeah. Now, do you just want to quickly explain to our listeners the difference between the 504 and, uh, the American with Disabilities Act, the ADA. Because one plays off of the other, can you talk to our listeners a little bit about that?
Judy: So section 504 says if you are an entity that is getting money from the federal government, you may not discriminate against one based on disability. There are similar provisions that exist in race and gender, disability came in in ’73. And it’s different than the ADA because the ADA covers the private sector. The ADA really covers everything that 504 didn’t cover. So it covers the business community. It covers um, shopping malls, movie theaters, all these entities that the general public uses, but wasn’t covered under 504 because they didn’t get money from the federal government. (J: Right).
So employment, Title One of the Americans with Disabilities Act was particularly important. Now, 504 covers employment, but it only covers employment if the entity is receiving money from the federal government. So, a university, a city government, a county government, a federal government, a state government, they’re all receiving money from the federal government.
So if someone had a disability and they were denied a job, and, um, or denied an interview and a job, whatever, they could file a complaint with the EEOC.
Like in 1970, when I was denied my teaching license, (J: uh huh), there was no 504 (J: right). So when they denied me my license, when the board of education of the city of New York denied me my license, because I wasn’t able to walk, if this would have happened after the spring of ‘73, then I could have filed a complaint. (J: Right). But it happened before 504 went into effect. (J: yeah).
So, if I applied for a job to work at a bank— banks didn’t get money from the federal government— so if I was denied a job based on the fact that I couldn’t walk, for example, then I wouldn’t have been able to file a complaint until 1990, (J: ‘90, right), under the ADA.
Janet: Right. And for those who want to know a little bit more about Judy’s decision to become a teacher— and I’d argue that you are a teacher like on a larger stage than you probably ever would have imagined— you can listen to her, her terrific Ted talk, which will be on our website.
Judy: The other thing, I would say that if you want to learn more about the ADA and 504 and other laws, if you go to ADA.gov.
Janet: Yeah. Well, for inclusive designers this is a really important piece. Let’s kind of switch gears a little bit and talk a little bit more about design. And maybe we can, um, talk a little bit about what it was like prior. I do remember a time, uh, before there were accessible buses and I do remember there was a ramp like on the subway in Brooklyn— by the way, a little shout out to Brooklyn. I grew up in Brooklyn, myself.
Judy: Yay, Brooklyn.
Janet: Yay Brooklyn, we’ll have a shout out to Brooklyn on the website as well. (laughs). So, but I remember there was at one point they use some sort of ramp, because it was a gap between the, the station platform and those, the subway. But I remember thinking there’s no way to get from the top down to the actual platform.
So anyways, I don’t know if you want to talk to our listeners a little bit about some of the things that were, a lot of the barriers in the built environment that you, you came across. Give our listeners sort of like an idea of where we were, sort of where we are now, and where we would like to be.
Judy: So as far as transportation is concerned, I would say… We’ve come pretty far, (J: right). Where we’re still dealing is in cities like New York, where they’re being sued, um, because, um, disabled people are saying that when they built some new stations, those stations were not accessible. So that’s one issue. But in New York city, for example, all of the buses are accessible. (J: right). And all around the United States, the buses are accessible. (J: right). And the Trailways and all these other bus companies that years ago said they couldn’t do it, they all have done it. And that really is because of laws like 504 and the ADA.
Janet: Oh yeah, absolutely. It’s come a long way and maybe we could talk a little bit about. I do teach. And one of the things that I teach is, it’s a day class, but it’s, um, we sort of do some simulations of different types of health conditions. So everything from visual imparity to paraplegia to mimicking different types of, like I said, human conditions.
And we do also have the, the wheelchair experience. And it’s, it’s fascinating to me. I think when my students get on there, they seem to think it’s going to be an easy ride. They’re just going to sit there, but it’s still, there’s a train station around the corner from the school. There is no access, and they can’t fathom that there’s no access until they’re trying to actually get down to the, down to the train station. Just even a coffee shop will be inaccessible.
I guess what I’m trying to ask is that, in that type of scenario for, for students, for teachers, I know that like in your Ted talk, you also talked about like, did you ever break your arms? So how did that feel? What did that make you feel? And those are temporary conditions, temporary inconveniences, but this is every day for, for millions of people.
Is that a decent idea to have that temporary setup for students to learn? Is that, I found like that’s a big eye-opener, but I make sure that I tell them, and I make sure that they recognize it’s a temporary thing and it’s not permanent. But I think that they’re always pretty wowed at how many things that they take for granted every day that they don’t realize are completely inaccessible.
Judy: So I am not sold on simulations unless they’re done in a really careful way. We had run a project when I lived in Berkeley, and I worked at the Center for Independent Living. We had a grant from the Department of Rehabilitation. And, uh, we brought small groups of rehab counselors to the CIL. And then they would be there for 5 days. And they would live with someone who had a disability. And the disability that they simulated was the same disability as the person they stayed with. Or similar. (J: hmm).
What I liked about that better was, first we had discussions about what they thought about disability, what they thought they would or wouldn’t be able to do. And then they, I think, simulated for like two days, and then they spent another day (J: talking about what they learned). Right. (J: right).
So now I certainly understand that for some people, you know, being in a chair or having their eyes covered, will give them some information, but frequently it may be, it may make them feel more hopeless. Like, ‘oh my God, if that happened to me, what would I do’ as opposed to ‘what changes should have been made/ are we going to fight for?’ So I think how they’re introduced is very important. (J: Right).
I think a lot of us are concerned about simulations with the intent of helping open people’s eyes may in fact not have that same effect, but I think there are appropriate ways that maybe some things can be done. Because that’s important for people to understand there is a step at the corner, but what could there be so it wouldn’t be a problem. And there’s, you know, whatever the issue may be.
So, cautiously, they need to learn more—what do the laws say? Are they being enforced? What changes may I start thinking about in my local community, new housing being built that’s not accessible. The law doesn’t require it to be accessible. Should I be arguing with others that we put a law in place then that in our jurisdiction ‘new construction must have an accessible entrance, then a bedroom and a bathroom on the first floor.’ I mean, different things, you know?
Janet: Right. Well, it breaks up, well, I can talk about this for a very long time with you, because I find that this is a pretty fascinating, but I want it to, then this is a great segue… So Judy, maybe you can talk to us a little bit about how you feel about the future, where we need to be as designers. Um, maybe not just as student designers, but then as designers for inclusivity.
Judy: Well I think universal design is what we should be looking at. We need to understand who our audience is and that we’re designing so that all potential people in the audience can benefit. (J: right). And I believe that just looking at design from a disability perspective isn’t the complete way we should be doing it.
Janet: Well that’s why I wanted you to come…Yeah, I’m sorry. That’s why I wanted you to come on the show because I firmly believe that advocacy and also supporting human rights is an important part of all this.
Judy: I think people need to understand that accessible, usable design benefits all people. (J: right). And at the end of the day, we absolutely know that it does not cost more money to design accessibly, whatever it is that we’re looking at designing. (J: right). So the built environment, technology, clothing, whatever it may be.
Janet: Well, that’s just it. So we talked about the restaurant business. In the interview that we did with the, the owner, Yannick Benjamin at ‘Contento’. I mentioned that I have gotten calls from designers and architects. If they’re doing a restaurant, in particular a restaurant, to try to figure out how to get around the, the ADA, because they have a certain amount of tables that they feel like they need to put into the space.
So I, I think it was one of those things. It really kind of angered me. Can you speak a little bit to other designers about that? I mean, but it, it goes really back to your point that… It’s profitable. It works. It does. It helps our society to become a better place by creating some accessibility to everybody.
Judy: So I think, the point that I’m making is: When you’re not designing for all, you’re excluding beyond the group you may intentionally be screwing. (J: laughs). You may be thinking that you’re screwing. (J: right).
I use a wheelchair. So there are certain things that I need, and standards support that. But if you look at buses and trains as examples, the fact that many of the train systems in the US and in other parts of the world now are accessible, also means that other people can use the buses and the trains. (J: right).
So I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed, but baby carriages from the 50s and ‘60s look pretty different today. (J: right). Baby carriages that were heavier, wider. Things that you wouldn’t have been able to just shlep up and down stairs, um, in many of our major cities with transportation. But now where they are accessible, you can use an elevator. (J: Right).
And likewise, um, accessibility of bathrooms, accessibility of tables, accessibility of counters. (J: yeah). You know, not everybody is tall, (J: no). and not everyone is a little person. So you have people who are five feet tall, and they’re going to be able to access a table and a chair and the ground differently than someone who’s six foot tall. (J: Right).
But if you’re designing for all, then it will benefit most people. (J: Right). And to me, that’s the ultimate thing that we’re trying to do is to have design be done in a, such a way that in such a way that we stop thinking about it as something which is special,
Janet: Right. Yeah. I think you even said something like, “if I have to be grateful for an accessible bathroom, I don’t want to be a part of that community” like it just should be, it should be a part of the community.
I completely agree with what you’re saying, and I find that it really does help. And I think that your example of the baby carriages is a great example. Because when, those elevators help women to get, or mostly women, to get their strollers down the, down to wherever. The coffee shop that I mentioned before that is not accessible at all.
And, they said, you know, even if it’s not somebody in a wheelchair, it could be somebody who has a baby carriage, somebody who doesn’t handle stairs well, somebody who might have some sort of other type of condition that doesn’t allow them. And it’s even just having vertigo for Pete’s sake. Like you might, might again be something sort of temporary.
And so it doesn’t even have to be something in a more permanent basis that, like you said, just allows us to be a better community and a better world and allow everybody to get access to coffee… because that’s what we all need, more access to coffee. (laughs). I have a couple more questions for you, Judy, if you can indulge me.
So two things… the design for the handicap with somebody in a wheelchair, the universal sign, good or bad, yes or no, right or wrong?
Judy: I mean, I think there’s a more modern design of a wheelchair, which I like better than the older one, but the concept of it, I think was important because the space was bigger. (J: right). Um, one of the reasons I always talk about the issue of importance of accessible design. There can be 50 spots, two spots that are designed for someone who’s got a disability. And inevitably those parking spots will be used because they’re closer and they’re bigger. (J: right).
So this reinforces that if they’re doing universal design, then we look at designing our parking spot so they’re appropriate for all, and then a certain number of them as is required are bigger (J: right), so that people using wheelchairs can get in and out of their car.
Janet: Oh, right on. I’ve actually met more like the placard, you know, the blue sign. Yeah. You’re, you’re, you’re good with that. You just want a different wheelchair on the, on the front of that. Because I felt like sometimes it doesn’t include everybody. To your point about the parking spots, I’ve had a lot of friends like who’ve had maybe heart attacks or have a kid who has, is non-verbal autistic.
Judy: Right, but they’re eligible.
Janet: I know, but people then look at them and say- ‘You’re not in a wheelchair. How dare you use this space?’ – which I argue is, that they mean well, unfortunately it’s, it’s very… (Judy: I mean I think that…), I think that they’re trying to punish, go ahead Judy…
Judy: I’d say, I think it’s a good point. And they may be people that are looking at a different sign. But I think the laws typically in states, whether someone is using a wheelchair or not but that they can show medical need, that they need certain things, then they can get it. (J: Right). So we live in an imperfect world.
And what I like about the more modern designs is that the older blue signs were quite non-representative of how people move. (J: right). But I think the point that you’re making, it’d be interesting from your listeners to know if any of them in any of the communities they live in are designing a different kind of sign.
Janet: That’s a good question. I’ll post it when we post all this stuff on social media. Great question, Judy.
So Judy, last question, globally. I know that you talked about the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Treaty… can you talk to us a little bit about that and what that means going forward and for the future of disabilities rights?
Judy: I think one of the important parts about the United Nations adopting the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2006, is that it was a process that brought disabled people together from around the world to work with delegations from every country that is a member of the UN to discuss what forms of discrimination and barriers disabled people of all ages were experiencing.
And then to agree that there was a need for a document called a treaty that would articulate the principle in about 42, 43 articles of what needed to be occurring. So, between 2006 and 2008, I believe the number was 30 countries that signed and ratified the treaty. Now the number is like more than 170. (J: great). Unfortunately, the United States is not one of the countries that’s ratified. There’s like a handful, 2 or 3 countries that haven’t.
But when President Obama was in office, he signed the treaty and then it needs to go to the Senate. The way it works in the United States is, in order for a President to ratify a treaty of any kind, there needs to be a vote from the US Senate, not the House, from the Senate. And it has to be two thirds of the senators voting to support the treaty.
I was working at the State Department at the time that the issue was moving forward, (J: right), and we were unsuccessful with the Republicans. So we could not get sufficient number of votes when the treaty was presented on the floor. And therefore, we haven’t ratified.
But let me say a couple things. One, so many, I mean, basically, as I said, there’s only a handful of countries that have not ratified. What that means is, if a government ratifies the treaty, they’re committing to such things: as all children getting an education. (J: hmm), early childhood, higher education, issues around employment, issues around transit, around health, around communications. On and on.
These particular articles are ones that governments are agreeing that they either have legislation and they review what it is they have to ensure compliance. Or that they will develop new legislation, and that they will take responsibility to help ensure that the treaty itself was being implemented with the ultimate objective of significantly reducing the discrimination and barriers that disabled people with all types of disabilities experience. (J: Yeah).
Now, that obviously is going to take decades. Given the fact that we’ve had lives like 504 for 50 years, (J: yeah), but we’ve made good progress. And in countries that have ratified the treaty and are taking it seriously, uh, you are beginning to see some important changes. And in some ways, some of the important changes are that disabled people’s organizations in their respective countries are getting much more involved with getting laws passed, getting policies developed and implemented. All of that is very important.
I would say the CRPD is slowly changing the way disabled people are seen around the world. And the benefit that we’ve seen in the US of laws like 504 and ADA, we’re seeing similar, slowly, but similar outcomes in many other countries.
Janet: That’s great. All right. Judy, thank you so much. This has been really wonderful. Again, the legend Judy Heumann,
Judy: it’s been great, thank you…
Janet: We couldn’t be happier that you stopped by today to talk to our Inclusive Designers listeners. Any time you want to come back, you can just give me a call and if not, I will see you in September of 2023. I will come find you in Washington and I’ll take you out for a celebratory drink.
Judy: Thank you guys very much.
Janet: Thank you
Judy: We’ll talk soon…
Janet: Thanks Judy.
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Janet: Judy is SO inspiring and amazing. I think it’s important that we as inclusive designers understand what it was like before the ADA, and how we need to design beyond the regulations to find the best solutions.
As Judy pointed out, “you need to understand who your audience is, and that you’re designing so that all potential people in the audience can benefit. In other words, accessible and usable design benefits everyone.”
Carolyn: Actually Janet, here’s a quick story— after the movie CODA won the Oscar for best picture, Judy said on social media… how proud she was of the example they set about how to make an outstanding film that is truly inclusive. She also mentioned that their director ‘Sian Heder’ would be working on the movie adaptation of Judy’s memoir!
Janet: Oh, I love her story and what she continues to do in terms of disability rights. How great is that!
Carolyn: Well, I can’t wait to see that film get made, and for Judy and the rest of the ‘Section 504’ team to get the recognition they so obviously deserve.
Janet: I am so grateful to Judy Heumann for giving her valuable time to us here at IDP. I cannot thank her enough. And I cannot wait to go down to DC and visit her during the 50th Anniversary of the ‘504 Rehabilitation Act’ in September of 2023.
Carolyn, I got to tell you, I cannot believe I asked her out, I did not plan that, it just came out! Anyways, that said, I do hope the timing works, and we can actually get together to celebrate the 50th anniversary… because that would be awesome!
Carolyn: There will probably be so much more to talk to her about by then, maybe even whether the movie based on her book is up for a future Oscar. Time will tell. And speaking of time, I think it’s about time to wrap up this episode.
Janet: As always, we will share the links for Judy, the ADA, 504, and of course, a few other things that were mentioned along the way during this discussion… all that on our website at: InclusiveDesigners.com…
Carolyn: That’s InclusivDesigners.com…
Janet: Our thanks again to THE Judy Heumann, and to you, our listeners, for stopping by.
Carolyn: Along with all the regular places you get your podcasts, you can also find us on YouTube as, you guessed it, Inclusive Designers Podcast. And of course, if you like what you hear, feel free to go to our website and hit that ‘Patreon’ button, or the link to our ‘GoFundMe’ Page.
Janet: As we say around here “Stay Well, And Stay Well Informed” … We’ll see you next time.
Carolyn: Yes, thanks again.
Music up & out