On this International Women’s Day, we acknowledge and celebrate women’s contributions to society, particularly those who have played integral roles in creating pathways for people with disabilities to live wholly and thrive in the classroom, in the workforce, and beyond.
Women such as Judy Heumann, who became the first individual in a wheelchair to teach in New York City. Heumann helped write the landmark Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) as well as Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which both grant students with disabilities the right to quality education free of discrimination. She also lobbied for the passage of the American With Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in the workplace, transportation, and other life activities. She went onto become the U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education for the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services.
Women such as Tammy Duckworth, who served as the first female helicopter pilot to lead in combat, the first woman with a disability to be elected to Congress, and the first sitting member of Congress to give birth. As a Senator, Duckworth has become a champion for paid family leave and workers with disabilities.
Women such as Claudia Gordon, the first Black female deaf lawyer to graduate from law school and pursue a career in disability rights. She served as an advisor to President Obama on a number of disability issues and served in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to ensure people with disabilities are well-equipped for emergency preparedness situations.
Today and every day, it is important to remember the hard work of trailblazing women who have made the world a better place for all.