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Video conversation with disability activist/writer Judith Heumann

While 11-time Grammy winner Taylor Swift captured the headlines when she received an honorary degree recently at New York University's commencement, let's take a moment to celebrate disability activist and writer Judith Heumann -- and recent NYS Writers Institute guest -- who also was on stage to receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters.


Swift and Heumann both addressed the graduates and attendees at the event at Yankee Stadium.

In her speech to the graduates, Judith Heumann said “The last few years have been hard, and at times heart-breaking, no question about it. But like the finest of swords — or chocolates if you prefer — the tempering you’ve experienced in the forge of the pandemic has made you stronger, even when you might not always feel that way.”


Judith also received an honorary degree in May from Smith College in Northampton, Mass. She is the author of two new memoirs, Being Heumann, and the YA autobiography, Rolling Warrior: The Incredible, Sometimes Awkward, True Story of a Rebel Girl on Wheels who Helped Spark a Revolution, and she starred in the Oscar-nominated, 2020 documentary, "Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution."


You may remember Judith was our guest for a virtual conversation with journalist James Odato in late March. In his introduction for the talk, Writers Institute Assistant Director Mark Koplik said, "Judith Heumann is a truly historic figure among the hundreds, the thousands who have worked hard for the Disability Rights Movement… She’s one of the bravest warriors in that revolution.


Judy speaks truth to power from a wheelchair. Over the course of half a century, she’s served as one of the principal organizers of many campaigns, protests, and sit-ins that have culminated in landmark legislation to protect the rights of the disabled. She’s held office in two presidential administrations."


Video: March 24, 2022 conversation with Judith Heumann and journalist/author James Odato


Writing/video contest

The Heumann-Armstrong Award is accepting applications from students with a disability in the 6th grade or higher, including higher education, who've experienced and advocated against ableism. The award is sponsored by the American Association for People with Disabilities, The Coelho Center, and Equal Opportunities for Students. Application form