Women’s History Month:
5 Disability Activists You Should Know
March is recognized as Women’s History Month.
While we should work with intention to recognize and celebrate the phenomenal achievements of extraordinary women during each and every month of the year, this month, in particular, we celebrate and uplift our sisters everywhere, who strive to break barriers, defy conventional norms and push the boundaries of our time. We honor them, and we celebrate all who have followed, and will follow, their example.
Here are FIVE Disabled women activists you should know and follow!
Judy Heumann is an internationally recognized, disability rights activist, who has spent her life fighting for equity, access and inclusion in both the United States and abroad. Born in 1947, Judy acquired her life-long disability after contracting Polio at 18 months old. As a child, her family fought for access to public schools at a time before Federal law prohibited the exclusion of students based on disability. After graduating from college, Judy sued the New York Board of Education when they denied her a teaching license because of her disability, and she subsequently became the first wheelchair user to teach in New York City. Her continued activism around accessibility was featured in the 2020 documentary Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution. In the 1980s, she co-founded the World Institute on Disability. She later served as Assistant Secretary of the Office of Special Education at the US Department of Education during the Clinton Administration; as the first Advisor on Disability and Development at the World Bank; the Special Advisor on International Disability Rights for the US State Department, a position appointed by then-President Barack Obama; and a Senior Fellow at the Ford Foundation.
- Website: com
- Autobiography: Being Heumann: An Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Rights Activist
- Podcast: The Heumann Perspective Podcast
Alice Wong is a Disabled activist, writer and media maker, and founder of the Disability Visibility Project, an online community that centers disability media and culture and serves as a repository of oral histories of people with disabilities. Born with spinal muscular atrophy in 1974, Alice has long been involved in disability activism. As an Asian American woman, she offers an important intersectional perspective. Her work has been published widely across media channels. She is a co-partner with #CripTheVote, an online engagement platform that encourages people with disabilities to vote and engage in the political arena. In 2013, President Obama appointed Alice to serve as a member of the National Council on Disability, an independent federal agency that advises Congress, the President and Executive Branch agencies on policies and programs that impact the disability community. She has received numerous awards and was named a Disability Futures Fellow by the Ford Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. In 2020, she was named one of BBC’s 100 Women.
- Website: com
- Book: Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the Twenty-First Century (There is also an edition adapted for young adult readers – Find it here!)
- Autobiography: Year of the Tiger: An Activist’s Life
- Twitter: @SFdirewolf and @DisVisibility
Imani Barbarin is a disability activist, public speaker and communications professional, who writes from the perspective of her lens as a Black woman with Cerebral Palsy. She is the current Director of Communications and Outreach at Disability Rights Pennsylvania and has grown a large following through her blog Crutches and Spice and social media advocacy. (CLICK HERE to read more about how Imani has leveraged the power of social media to amplify her voice as a community activist.)
- Blog: Crutches and Spice
- Twitter: @imani_barbarin
- TicTok: //www.tiktok.com/@crutches_and_spice">@crutches_and_spice
Rebecca Cokley is a “2nd generation, civil rights activist” and the current U.S. Disability Rights Program Officer at the Ford Foundation. Previously, she was Founding Director of the Disability Justice Initiative at the Center for American Progress and, during the Obama Administration, she served as Executive Director of the National Council on Disability. Born in 1978 with achondroplasia, Rebecca was raised in the Bay Area by two activist parents who shared her disability. In 2015, she was inducted into the inaugural Susan M. Daniels Disability Mentoring Hall of Fame.
Andraéa LaVant is a Black, disabled woman activist, cultural changemaker and disability inclusion expert. As founder of LaVant Consulting, Inc., a social impact communications firm specializing in disability representation, Andraéa is a successful business woman and was the first visibly disabled Black woman to attend the Oscars for her work as Impact Producer of the award-winning, Netflix documentary Crip Camp. As an activist and influencer, she sits at the intersection of disability, race and gender, and is outspoken about representation and the inclusion of diversity within advocacy. In 2021, she was inducted into the Susan M. Daniels Disability Mentoring Hall of Fame.
Whitney Stohr is a Parent to Parent Coordinator at The Arc of Snohomish County. She is passionate about advocating for medically complex children and children with disabilities and their families. She is a mom and medical caregiver herself, who is energized by working closely with other parent/family caregivers. She lives with her four-year-old son Malachi and husband Jason in Lynnwood. Connect with her on Instagram @rollin.w.spinabifida. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.