Judith Heumann and Fernando Torres-Gil

On Protecting the Rights and Dignity of Disabled Americans

Judith Heumann, a lifelong advocate for the rights of disabled people, joined Fernando Torres-Gil, professor of social welfare and public policy, for a wide-ranging virtual conversation focusing on the ongoing fight for universal accessibility. Hosted by the UCLA Luskin Undergraduate Program, the Feb. 8 dialogue came during Heumann’s weeklong appointment as a UCLA Regents’ Lecturer. Heumann and Torres-Gil spoke about their work shaping legislation and policies to protect the rights and affirm the dignity of disabled Americans. Both speakers have spent decades serving in key government and nonprofit positions focusing on health and aging, and both bring a personal perspective on living with disability as survivors of polio contracted as young children. Torres-Gil, director of the Center for Policy Research on Aging at UCLA Luskin, said making education, housing and health care more accessible will have a broad impact, as people young and old may face unexpected physical or cognitive decline and as the long-term health effects of COVID-19 become clear. Heumann also spoke about her work as a Ford Foundation fellow studying depictions of disabled people in the media. “The paper that we produced was a roadmap to inclusion,” she said. “It is making it normal that you could be blind, you could be deaf, you can have a physical disability, you can have an intellectual disability, you can have a memory issue — all these different things. They need to be built into the way we experience life.”

View a video or read the transcript of the conversation between Heumann and Torres-Gil, “Beyond Allyship: Disability Rights and Public Service.” 

View a video of Heumann’s UCLA Regents’ Lecture, “Disrupting Ableism in Higher Education and Beyond.” 


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