Hi, I'm Alex Abahmed with Below the Radar. And you're listening to The Power of Disability, with your host, community organizer, social entrepreneur and author Al Etmanski. This is a six-part series of the Below the Radar podcast. The Power of Disability features interviews with special guests centring and celebrating the contributions of people with disabilities.
Al Etmanski 0:26
Hello, my name is Al Etmanski. And this is The Power of Disability podcast, highlighting what history has overlooked: the contributions of people with disabilities. Today's Power of Disability guest is Judy Heumann. Judy is a lifelong activist and leader in the disability rights movement in the United States, but also internationally. At 18 months of age, Judy was paralyzed with polio and has used a wheelchair ever since. For decades, she's been at the forefront of the disability rights movement, protest movement. I don't know if this was your first one or not, Judy, but in order for you to be licensed as a teacher in New York, you had to sue the New York City Board of Education.
Judy Heumann 1:10
It was my first lawsuit. First lawsuit.
Al Etmanski 1:11
The first of many. You're an early founder of the independent living movement. You participated, led, organized the longest sit-in of a federal government building lasting 28 days back in 1977. I think there were many occupations. The two main ones were San Francisco and Washington. You were the first ever special advisor on disability rights for the United States State Department under President Obama. You have been an advisor to the World Bank on disability and development. Your work is featured most recently in the Netflix documentary film Crip Camp, a disability revolution, which was the winner of the Sundance Audience Award. And I've just found out that it's now on the shortlist for documentaries, with regard to the Oscars.
Al Etmanski 2:16
And you were identified by Time Magazine as one of the 100 most influential women in history. And you produced last year, a book, Being Heumann: An Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Rights Activist. And there it is on our screen. I've got my Kobo copy here of it as well, Judy. You're speaking to us from your home in Washington, DC
Judy Heumann 2:48
Al Etmanski 2:49
Judy Heumann 2:50
Al Etmanski 2:51
And I'm really, I'm excited to talk to you. And one of the reasons is that you're a mentor, not only to people around the world, but also to many Canadians. And over the last two weeks, as I've told people that I was going to be speaking to you, they all had a singular story to tell me about you. Yeah, seriously. And oh, I didn't go to that event. And then I heard she was coming or I met her in the, in a separate room just as she was boarding an airport, etc. So, everybody's got a story about you. And I just kind of outline the general story that's out there about you, but how would, how would you describe yourself?
Judy Heumann 3:35
No one's ever asked me that. So today, I am a 73 year old, white disabled woman in the foyer of our apartment. I use a motorized wheelchair. I had polio, as you mentioned, when I was 18 months old. I have on a purple sweater and purple and teal earrings, glasses. And I'm wearing a Jewish star. And we're in the foyer of our apartment, where I have a lot of, you know, photos of family and plants. And how do I describe myself outside of what I look like? I'm an activist. I like being an activist. I'm a problem-solver. I'm a networker. I like to learn from other people what's going on. And I feel that in the darkest of times, we have to be positive. And that, you know working together really makes a difference. And I guess part of the question is how big should the circle be? And certainly one thing that I've learned over the course of my life, and I assume you too, is, you know, we grew up in our neighbourhoods and our neighbourhoods were not necessarily reflective of the diversity of our countries. And so, you know, we didn't learn things that we could have been learning if racism and homophobia and anti-semitism, anti-Muslim, [anti-]Asian, etc, didn't exist. And so I think what's been important for me, over the course of my life really has been, and both the book and the film, Crip Camp, you know, you see a growing diversity of disabled people. And that, to me, was always, it was just happening. And it's been really valuable to me to learn from people, how they do various things, and you know, what we need to do to be respectful and collaborative with other people. I like the work that I've been doing, because it's not just been a local community, it's been national and international. So, meeting other people with similar problems, sharing information with each other – also, that, how we feel and how it's important to work collaboratively with people to try to have big dreams, to recognize they may not happen overnight, and to be able to change. And when I say change, you know, as our societies change, and advance, you know, things that we'd never thought would have been possible in the 1950s and 60s, like social media, you know. It's a completely different world. And so, I think being able to also be intergenerational is something that's very important for me, because I don't know how to do so many things that younger people just have grown up doing and have no idea that we don't understand what they're talking about. So I guess that's a little of who I am.
Al Etmanski 7:29
Thank you. I know colour is very important to you. Your book is just resplendent with descriptions of moments that you recall, in terms of colour, and you write about your early childhood days, and you said, “If I was going to describe them, I would describe them in bright pinks, and lavender.” And then there's always this, on the other hand side of things. And you talk about the beautiful dress that your mother put on you, when you were going to kindergarten for the first time. And then you met a man, the principal there who called you a fire hazard. And so, that juxtaposition between this brightness and the light and the colours, and then this, right in your face challenge that occurred out of the blue, to use another colour term. Can you talk a little bit more about that?
Judy Heumann 8:26
I mean, you know, at five years old, I didn't really know what was going on. I did know that my mom took me to school to register me. And I didn't go back to school the next day. And that my mother said, I couldn't. Principal wouldn't let me go to the school because it wasn't accessible. And I don't remember when I first learned that it was a fire hazard for me to go there. But that is a term that really became something that people would use rather frequently. Obviously, that's just for me, but for other people, and you know, it was a way of deflecting responsibility and making the person being discriminated against, in this case disabled people, become the victims and the perpetrators. Right? It's like we were being victimized and couldn't go to school, but you know, the adverse effect that was gonna happen to us, people really didn't think of, didn't care about, denied.
Al Etmanski 9:37
You say when you were five, you didn't really completely understand what was going on, or this was a dawning awareness. And I don't want to dwell too much on that period in your life, but it is another description you used for yourself. As you said, you, as a result of an experience on the way to the candy store, that you had this sudden realization and understanding about yourself that you were a butterfly becoming a caterpillar
Judy Heumann 10:07
Right. Well, the incident basically was I was going to the store with a friend. I didn't have a motorized wheelchair at that time. I don't even know if they were around. But we certainly didn't know about them. And she was pushing my wheelchair. And a kid came over and asked me if I was sick. And as the book reflects, it's this interaction with this boy. I was about eight. He was asking me if I'm sick. And it was this rude awakening that that's how people saw me, that if you used a wheelchair, you were sick. And then of course, you know, as an adult, that makes sense. Because, you know, you still have people, a) infrequently in wheelchairs, and b) when you did see them on television — which was in and of itself also something new in that generation — you frequently saw people who were in wheelchairs, and it was a negative experience. And they would be healed, and start walking, or they were evil, or whatever it was. But more often than that, nothing, because you didn't see people in wheelchairs. But I think, you know, over the years, I've learned that eight, nine years old, is a time when people notice their difference. Whether you have a disability, or you're a different race, or you dress differently, because of your clothing, whatever it may be, it's a time when you begin to notice yourself, and others notice you. And maybe a time when people are becoming, you know, more bullying or abusive. And I think that is something that we have seen, you know, in today's society continue to be a major problem, and in some ways, worse than it was then.
Al Etmanski 12:19
2020 was a big year for you. A Time nomination as one of the 100 most influential women, as I mentioned,
Judy Heumann 12:28
In the 20th century.
Al Etmanski 12:30
In the 20th century. Well, yeah,
Judy Heumann 12:33
I got 1977, was the year for me.
Al Etmanski 12:36
Okay. Right, well, 100 years is still a pretty big span. So congratulations for that. But so there was that nomination. The Crip Camp documentary arrived on Netflix, and it's still there, at least it is in Canada. And your book, but you told me that there was another experience that was equally exhilarating for you. And that was to be interviewed by Trevor Noah. And this gets to another description of you. He, I think, called you a fierce badass.
Judy Heumann 13:07
Al Etmanski 13:08
So first of all, how did you? I mean, how did you manage to get on his show?
Judy Heumann 13:13
No idea. They called and asked. I assume it was maybe Netflix and Beacon [Press], when the book was coming out, the film was coming out, that were, you know, advertising things. And they called and I was like, yeah, of course. I love Trevor Noah. He's like one of my favourite people. And so being asked to be in that program was very humbling.
Al Etmanski 13:39
Well, it may have been humbling for him as well, because he claimed in the middle of the segment, and people have to watch it. It's just incredible.
Judy Heumann 13:49
Watch it, go to YouTube, put in Trevor Noah, March 4th.
Al Etmanski 13:54
Judy Heumann 13:54
There's two parts. One is the 10 minute interview between he and myself. And then they take this short part of it and put it in the 30 minute production.
Al Etmanski 14:05
Okay. Well, I think I've seen both and he claims you threatened him during the segment and it got the biggest laugh of the night for sure. And you in quotation marks “threatened” him by making the distinction between his use of the word able-bodied and your use of the term non-disabled and I wonder if you could, you could explain that difference for our audience here.
Judy Heumann 14:33
I don't like any of these words, like 'able.' Because to me, it's like a power term. You know, he's able, I'm not able, I'm able, he's able, but I prefer to use the term disabled and non-disabled. So, one of the reasons why that show was important to me when it was finished, was because when he used the term able-bodied... And I very quickly was thinking, am I gonna say something about this? I don't like this word. And so I did. I said, I don't use the word able-bodied I use the word non-disabled. And he said, “Are you threatening me?” And you know, you can tell there I kind of stepped back. And I don't remember what I said, I guess I am. But, of course I wasn't. But the point of this was, many people acquire their disabilities as they get older, and people can have temporary or permanent disabilities. And the issue is not to be afraid of it. And so I thought it was very interesting that he used the term. Are you threatening me? Honestly, I would love to talk with him again about that, because I think it's the right word. I think people view disability as a threat. And, you know, it was so spontaneous on both of our ends. But but I think it's the crux of one of the major issues that we deal with, which is that non disabled people are afraid of acquiring a disability, which is something that will be inevitable for a short or longer period of time, either in their own personal life or with their family, and the ability to really think about it in a proactive way. What we need as a community to do in order to ensure that the barriers we face now, as many of them as possible, are removed. And the barriers, they're both physical barriers, but also barriers where people are disrespectful, people abuse people who are weaker than they are. People don't get the financial support that they need, to get the technology they need. The wheelchairs, the hearing aids, the glasses, you know, the healthcare support, whatever it may be. Personal assistance services. And frequently, it's left up to those of us who have disabilities with friends, who are doing the advocating, where if society itself really was willing to listen and learn and discuss, we could be creating a world which was opening and welcoming to people with various types of differences.
Al Etmanski 17:33
You know, I want to ask you a little bit more about what you've just said, in the context of the first line in your book, which was "I never wished I didn't have a disability." So what did you wish for?
Judy Heumann 17:50
I wish that I could live my life and do what I wanted to do with my disability, because, you know, I've never walked. I don't dream about walking. You know, I do work towards and fight for accessibility, and personal assistance services, and things like that. But I never think that I wish I didn't have a disability.
Al Etmanski 18:25
I've witnessed with my own daughter, and I've seen it so many times imposed on others, that people have tried to shape my daughter's dreams, including me, as her parent, as her dad. And even further telling her what to think, what to feel, what she should be doing. So, I don't know if you experience that. I mean, those are the expectations that come at you from others, including well-meaning people. How did you combat people who were treading on your dream?
Judy Heumann 19:04
I don't really feel so much that... let's see. You ask very interesting questions. I feel like society itself was treading, not just on my dreams, but on our dreams. And that, you know, really being around other disabled people, which started to happen when I was like nine when I finally started going to school, segregated classes, and then camps. My neighbourhood obviously, I was the only disabled person in the neighbourhood and in the family, when I went to synagogue and I was the only one with a physical disability. But it was the society itself that, by lack of examples, was not really encouraging dreaming, you know. So, obviously, that was, you know, clamping down. But it wasn't so much when I was younger that people said, I couldn't be this or that. It was indirectly being said, because I didn't see people like myself, as teachers, as doctors, as social workers, as scientists. You know, Franklin Roosevelt was president. He was a wheelchair user. And that I definitely knew about. You know, my parents told me about that. But really, it was the need for myself with other people to start thinking about what I wanted to do. You know, and then when I decided I wanted to be a teacher, some of my friends in high school who had disabilities were like, no, don't tell the agency that's going to pay for you to go to school that you want to be a teacher, because they likely will not pay for you to study for a job that you can't show them, someone else was hired using a wheelchair to be a teacher. And that was true. I didn't know anybody who had been hired who was a wheelchair user. So at least for me, I guess, you know, I studied piano instead of taking occupational therapy. And it was a very smart thing. And my parents, and I studied voice and I was, at that point in my life, a really good singer. And I auditioned at Juilliard. And they told me I should come back a year later, because I was a little young. And my parents really loved my voice, they kind of supported it, but they really felt that I'd not be able to make a career in the theatre. And so I guess that was one area that, you know, Ali Stroker, who is a disabled woman, in the United States, the first wheelchair user to be on Broadway and to win a Tony Award. She's in her 30s now, and she's really, you know, broken, one of the big barriers, but in the 1960s, and 70s, it was not going to be me, unfortunately, I think. Would have been fun.
Al Etmanski 22:25
This issue of culture, you know, has many dimensions to it. There's just the artistic culture, the expression of who we are, and what we want to convey, through all of the mediums of art. But there's also culture in the broader sense of, you know, of who we are as a group. Who we are as a people. And you write about this in your book, and in your own YouTube channel, I think, you go out of your way to reveal, display the splendor of what could only be called a disability culture.
Judy Heumann 23:01
Al Etmanski 23:02
And you talk about this in terms of claiming one's disability. Taking back the language. Developing a shared description of what's going on, whether it's analysis or beyond helping people to find each other, pride, power comes out of that. Could you talk a little bit more about this? Because this I have come with my age to really appreciate that this cultural dimension of change is a really important ingredient. It's invisible or silent. So, not easily grabbed onto, but what is your thought?
Judy Heumann 23:42
I mean, for me, I think people like to belong. And for those of us who have disabilities, where the disability plays a significant part of our life, or in our life, and we're the ones that will determine that. For me, it's always been important to be able to meet other people who understand what I'm talking about. And by that, I mean, I can talk with them about discrimination, and they get it. I can talk about how I feel about it, and they get it. And we can also talk about no longer allowing ourselves to be victims. And what we need to do in order to know we claim who we are and create who we are. And I think that's really been very important and, you know, it's a part of who I am. I'm a woman. I'm Jewish. All those things are important to me. Pulling all those things together is important to me. But it also means then that these different parts of who I am, I want them to be able to like come together. That means that, you know, my being a disabled Jewish woman, I need in the Jewish community and the women's community to also have the same level of respect and camaraderie that I do in the disability community. That doesn't really yet exist. Many of the other communities that we belong to, because many of the other communities really still discriminate against disabled people, whether it's knowingly discriminate or not. But, you know, I remember, in the 70s, when the women's movement was really emerging more, and disabled women, were feeling that we were not really included in what was going on. And we were trying to become a part of what was happening. And I remember I was living, I grew up in Brooklyn, but I was living in Berkeley at the time. And there was a meeting going on. And the women had said it needed to be held in an accessible building. And then I remember I was talking and saying, if nobody shows up in a wheelchair, what is that going to mean? And, you know, that may sound, well, you know, there was an expectation that if something was going to be acceptable, and we didn't participate, that things shouldn't be accessible in the future, as opposed to, these are the ways things should always be. And, you know, if people aren't coming, there should be a discussion about why, you know, why are people not coming? Are they not feeling a part of what's going on? Do they not feel like they belong? So, you know, needing to really have a better understanding of the impact of exclusion, and what needs to be done, in order to enable people to feel comfortable about coming in and participating, you know?
Al Etmanski 27:09
It seems to me that a big part of your career as an activist has been reaching out to other groups, to other movements, from the very beginning. One of the most memorable scenes in Crip Camp is when the Black Panthers showed up with support, and I know their support involved many dimensions, including food, but also helping people to get from Berkeley to Washington. And as I understand it, you were the one who had reached out in and formed those alliances, at the beginning.
Judy Heumann 27:42
So, the people who were on the 504 demonstration, it was a big group of us, and Kitty Cone and myself were two of the people, and others. The reason why the Black Panthers got involved is one of the founders of the Panthers, in Oakland, California, in the 1960s, had a disability. And he was part of the work that was going on, both at CIL out in Oakland, and with the demonstrations. So, it was Brad Lomax that got the Panthers involved, because he was a member of the Panthers. So, and then we also obviously, reached out to labour unions, women's groups, the farmworkers, many, many other groups, like LGBTQ community, you know, the veterans community, many others. And I think that was something that we always did, because when we started organizing at the Berkeley CIL, and other centers for independent living, we always found it to be valuable to reach out to others because we wanted them to invite us to participate with them when they were doing things and vice versa. And we did that because, you know, there are disabled veterans, disabled people who are poor, many. Disabled people who, you know, become disabled, who are farmworkers, all types of things, women's movement, and it really was, we felt, very important to be building bridges, and cooperation and collaboration.
Al Etmanski 29:33
You wrote in your book, Judy, that in a world of increasing inclusivity, it seems particularly odd that popular media still excludes one very large segment, section of the population. And you made an analogy between the characters, the powerful characters in the Black Panther movie versus the characters originally portrayed in those Blaxploitation films of the early 1970s. And comparing, or suggesting that we needed a similar Renaissance or refreshing view of people with disabilities in popular culture. Crip Camp is a potential strike in that direction, would you say? You do see more of that happening now? I know you've interviewed many, many disabled people who are now part of popular culture. But what's your sense of where, where it's going? Is there sufficient momentum now? Do you think that we can look for something similar to Black Panther epiphany within Hollywood?
Judy Heumann 30:42
No, someday, but who knows. I don't want to say when. I want to say that we are definitely moving in the right direction. There are more and more disabled people who are professionals in many of these industries who have not yet been given the recognition they need. And I think one of the important things that's happening is that more disabled people are coming together in journalism and documentary filmmaking, in many, many areas, both to, again, this model of sharing stories about success and barriers, what needs to be done in order to get the stories of disabled people being told in authentic ways. Getting disabled people in journalism rooms. Not just writing about disability, but being able to write about disability as a part of what they're doing. And also have the ability to tell stories. Like, if you think about community organizing, and telling the stories of people in communities who are organized in various groups. I think really having somebody that understands disability is very important, because they can ask questions about what is happening in the area of disability that many other people would not think to ask. You know, I was in Kenya, and I was meeting with disabled women's groups. And one of the issues in the US is the higher rate of violence against disabled girls and women, sexual assault and violence. And it's only been, I think, in the last 10 to 15 years, that there is some data that's actually being collected in this regard. And that data shows that disabled girls and women experience higher rates of violence. And so when I was in Kenya, and we were talking to reporters, I raised this issue. And because the women I had been speaking to and the women I spoke to in many countries, either because I asked them or they brought it up on their own, were talking about violence against disabled women, not being able to get prosecutions, you know, being victims who are not being seen and heard. And that's a very important discussion. And women that were working in the area of abuse against disabled girls and women need to understand that, a) disabled girls and women are victims at a higher rate, and b) they women who are abused, in many cases, who did not have a disability, previously may well now have some form of mental health disability, and they also have a physical disability, because the violence is perpetrated in so many ways. So I think getting back to what we were talking about earlier, around Trevor Noah, you know, disability happens in so many ways. And a woman, for example, who's victimized, and then is not even really brought back into her own community, because she is a victim and, many ways we could discuss it, but at the end of the day, a lens of disability needs to be put on everything that we're doing. Disabled people need to be able to feel proud of who we are. Pride doesn't mean we're not experiencing pain. We need to really be able to address the joy and sorrow that we feel, by the experiences that we have. We need to feel not alone. We need to see the commonality, not just the disability community and others, but other communities, and we need to feel as comrades that we want to work together. We want to be changing our communities, not just for disabled people, but for all disadvantaged populations, discriminated against populations.
Al Etmanski 31:18
This broader sense of solidarity, Judy, reminds me of an experience I had a couple of years ago where I was in a room that was full of Indigenous activists who were developing a campaign to protest the expansion of tanker traffic off our west coast here in British Columbia. And one of the most seasoned and frankly, successful and well known, Indigenous activists, at one point during the discussion, said, Why do they keep treating me the way they do? Do they not think I'm human? And I mean, you've got a wonderful name for a variety of reasons, and your book called Being Heumann, you know, fits, but also you have a chapter in your book called human. And this this sense of being unworthy or objectified, depersonalized, however, you want to describe it. Not being recognized as, as human, it seems to me is consistent among many liberation movements. I mean, that the slogan, the emblem, the motto of the first abolitionist movement back in the late 1700s, in England was, am I not, those days, they all use male language, but am I not a man? Am I not human? So do you have any, I guess that we're coming to the end of our talk, but you have any reflections on this? Because this is deep, and, you know, gets to the core of who we are as people. And maybe some people might call this philosophical or spiritual. But I'm just wondering if you have any reflections on this notion.
Judy Heumann 37:10
I do think that people when they don't believe you're equal to them, they don't think you're a human being. You're not valued the same way. And if you don't value someone, you don't consider... if I don't consider your life to be as important as my life, then I'm not going to really be looking out for you or listening to you and learning from you about what I may be doing to inflict that on you. What I need to be doing with others to change that. Listening and learning, I think, is really something that, you know, people don't do. Or maybe it's painful to listen and learn, and people still don't act. But you know, part of the chapter in the book takes place in a rural area in the state of Andhra Pradesh in India. And I was meeting... I was with the World Bank at that point. And we went to this rural area, because there were a couple of programs that were being run by disabled people, right, space programs. And one of the questions that I asked people in the group was, you know, what is one of the things that's changed? And a couple of people said, they were being called by their names. So previously, they were not being called by their birth name. They were being called, in a derogatory term, using a word around disability in a negative way. And so they formed a group of people who came together as disabled people, supported each other, began to talk about, to the leaders in the communities, what the issues were, what they needed, what needed to change, which was very profound. One of the stories in this chapter is there was a little boy in the group, whose mother when he was born, had no arms. And her mother-in-law had told her that she was not to feed the baby. And this group, the commitments group, went and spoke to the grandmother, explaining that she had to allow the mother to feed the child. And they had also been working with the police to allow the police to know some of the situations that were going on in the community. And obviously, the grandmother... one way or the other, the mother was feeding the child. He was really quite healthy, you know, when we met him. But I think it's very important for people to understand this stigma and discrimination that people with disabilities face in many countries. And in some countries, you know, when you think about people who have albinism, in about 26 countries in Africa, some of these people are being forced to live in segregated camps. Some of them have to add body parts cut off, have been slain, because religious leaders are saying, the bones are magic. And there is more work that is being done to address these issues, and to prosecute people, but still not where it needs to be. It's still occurring. And so these are some of the outcomes of not recognizing that people are human. We look and sound different, maybe, but we have a heart. We breathe. We eat, and we want to be accepted and contribute.
Al Etmanski 41:07
Thank you. Judy, you dedicate your book to your parents, Ilse and Werner Heumann, who ignored the doctor's advice to put you in an institution when you were a wee baby. And you thank them for the belief that you could do anything. The role of parents as allies is changing as the disability narrative changes. And the role of allies, I think, is changing for all of the reasons that you've talked about today. Could you reflect on the role of allies in the process of change that is occurring in the disability movement now?
Judy Heumann 41:49
I think the role of parents and allies is an important one. And sometimes a difficult one, because you know, I feel very strongly that parents need to play appropriate roles in the lives of their children. Whether their children have disabilities or not, parents also need to allow their children to grow up. And even if they have a significant disability, to be helping to put things in place, so that the voices of their children who are now adults, are ones that can come forward, that their voices can come forward. And when that doesn't happen, I think it's still a part of, you know, the problem. Because people know that parents play a certain role in their children's lives. And for non-disabled children, they step back, or they're pushed back because their adult kids won't let them do that. And in many cases, you know, because disabled people have to rely on families, because there aren't things in place that need to be in place. It becomes a problem. And I think allies need to understand that being supportive is very important. Obviously, we need allies. But we also need to make sure that it's the voices of disabled people that are the prominent voices. Just like you know, in the women's movement, the Indigenous movement, Black movement, Latinx movement, whatever it may be. It isn't a movement which is controlled by allies. Allies participate.
Al Etmanski 43:26
It's been 31 years, or getting close to 31 years since the passage of the Americans with Disability Act, Judy, and you've now got a new president and vice president with a firm and clear commitment to people with disabilities. Are you optimistic? Where do you see the disability movement going in America?
Judy Heumann 43:48
I think the disability movement is moving forward. It's growing. It's expanding. It's becoming more and more diverse, both by race and ethnicity, and sexual orientation and disability, and intergenerational, all of which I think is very, very important. And we're not going to be going back. We are going forward. I think, you know, you do see, as we were discussing earlier, the importance and the role that disabled people are playing in media is improving slowly. And disabled people are getting jobs and areas that we didn't get before. And I think in voting, we don't have time now. But I really love to hear, because I don't have the answer about how people register to vote in Canada. But there's a group in the US called the American Association of People with Disabilities. They have a project called Rev Up and Rev Up has been very, very involved and it's non-partisan. So, helping ensure that people get registered to vote and helping them learn what their rights are if they have a disability, about how to vote, and if there's a problem, who to call. And I would say that, you know, the voices of disabled people in voting are definitely being heard, not just within the disability community, but within the political parties. And by people running for office, recognizing that they do need to answer our letters about what their positions are. They do need to recognize that, in the US we're 61 million people, not all of voting age, but a significant number of us. And that, counting us out is a problem for them. And I fully, I'm very happy about the changes in our government. I don't know how to express that strong enough. And I also feel that the previous administration has done great damage. And that, you know, the new administration, Biden-Harris, they have a lot of work to do. It's not only bringing in good people which they are, but it's really being able to both rebuild our government agencies, which were so negatively affected, but it's also really allowing people in the United States to understand the role of good government. And, you know, COVID, I think, is a perfect example of the strengths and weaknesses here and other countries. Our lack of an effective public health care system. So state by state, the distribution of the vaccines, etc, are still quite problematic. And I do hope that one of the outcomes, using COVID, as an example, will be a relook at what needs to happen.
Al Etmanski 46:53
Judy Heumann, thanks for speaking with me today and for illustrating the power of disability and for also illustrating what you ended your book with: that people with disabilities are leaders of inclusiveness, and community, and love, and equity and justice. Thank you so much, Judy.
Judy Heumann 47:15
Thank you, Al, very much. It was a privilege.
Al Etmanski 47:18
We'll put links to Judy's book, your book, Judy, on our website, along with the YouTube channel that you have. And I think we'll make sure to put that interview with Trevor Noah on there. And I would really recommend that people get your book, Being Heumann for your next purchase or for your book club.
Judy Heumann 47:40
And the book is coming out very shortly next week, I think, in softcover. And in the summer on June 15, it's coming out in a youth edition, a young adult version.
Al Etmanski 47:54
Judy Heumann 47:55
So thank you, Al.
Al Etmanski 47:58
Thank you, Judy. And if you want to read more about the Power of Disability, you can check out my own website AlEtmanski.com. Subscribe to the disability digest that we have there or check out my latest book, The Power of Disability: Lessons for Surviving, Thriving and Changing the World. Thanks for listening, everybody. Until next time,
Judy Heumann 48:21
Thank you. Bye.
Alex Abahmed 48:29
This has been the second part of the Power of Disability, a special six-part series of the Below the Radar podcast. Check back next Thursday for the third installment. The series is curated and hosted by the community organizer, social entrepreneur and author, Al Etmanski. Theme music for the Power of Disability is There is Nothing Wrong with Me, Epilepsy by Todd Oseki. The production of this series is supported by SFU's Vancity Office of Community Engagement.
[music, singing: “Disease, disorder, what can it be? There’s no need for sympathy. Disease, disorder, epilepsy. There is nothing wrong with me.]