Beacon Press: Disability
Login Cart


Recommended Reading In Disability

Being Heumann
Harnessing Grief
Intelligent Love
Sincerely, Your Autistic Child


July 27, 2023

By Julia Watts Belser | Ever since I began writing “Loving Our Own Bones,” I knew I wanted to craft a plain language version. The book brings disability culture into conversation with Jewish and Christian traditions, inviting readers to explore how disability insights can transform our politics and our spiritual lives. At its heart, it’s a book about challenging ableism—a book that calls us all to build a radically accessible world....
July 26, 2023

By Ben Mattlin | When you’ve grown up in a world not quite made for you or are forced into one from an accident or illness, and when you feel you should be able to do what everybody else seems to do, when you feel as if you’ve been inexplicably singled out for punishment, it can be utterly, achingly soul sinking. Worse still, it’s hard to shake. “Internalized ableism” is believing the prejudicial assumptions and expectations thrust on you by society, believing you’re inferior, undesirable, burdensome, don’t fit in, and/or in need of repairing or healing or fixing or curing....
July 13, 2023

By Jane Strauss | One of the things that many parents seem to be unhappy about when their child is labeled “Autistic” is this: “But they will not have play dates.” Friendship, “socializing,” and human interaction are seen as central to our very humanity. Females often fly under the radar for being labeled on the autism spectrum because their social development is different from that of males, generally resulting in more social orientation, better imitation skills at a younger age, and earlier speech, of whatever kind, than their male counterparts....
March 14, 2023

By Kristen Joiner | “So, you’ve been a feminist and worked in human rights your whole career?” Judy Heumann asked me the first time we met to discuss the possibility of writing her memoir. “Right.” “And you never knew disability was a civil rights issue?” Since I’d already owned up to this, I nodded again. “So, what makes you think you can write my story?”...


Judith Heumann

Judith Heumann

Judith Heumann (1947–2023) was an internationally recognized leader in the Disability Rights Independent Living Movement. She served in the Clinton and Obama administrations, and she was the World Bank’s first adviser on disability and development. Heumann was the author of a memoir, Being Heumann, and her story was featured in the Netflix documentary Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution (2020).
Read more


Being Heumann:An Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Rights Activist

How We’re Silenced and the Power of Judy Heumann by Kristen Joiner

Judy Heumann isn’t nice.

Let me be clear.

Judy Heumann, one of the most transformative disability rights leaders of our time, is very friendly. Just take a walk around her Washington, DC, block. You’ll see that she’s on a first-name basis with everyone, from the doorman to the bus driver. But she is not nice.

For the past three years, I’ve had the privilege of waking up and imagining myself into Judy Heumann’s shoes. I co-authored her story, Being Heumann: An Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Rights Activist, and as a nondisabled person, I’ve learned (and am still learning) an enormous amount about life with a disability. Equally important, despite having spent my entire career leading NGOs and working for social change, I’ve also learned an enormous amount from Judy about activism.

Judy Heumann became a quadriplegic from polio at the age of one and grew up in 1950s Brooklyn—an era known for locking disabled people in institutions, segregating them into inferior special education programs, and shunting them into sheltered workshops as a proxy for “employment.” People with disabilities, stigmatized and ignored, were considered a burden. In the face of this discrimination, Judy became an activist for disability rights. In 1977, she and others led 150 disabled people into the San Francisco Federal building and refused to leave until the Carter administration enacted the first civil rights legislation for disability. This protest, the Section 504 Sit-In, is recognized now as the longest takeover of a federal building in US history. It paved the way for the American Disabilities Act.

In other words, Judy is a badass.

Judy speaks the truth. Unapologetically. Now, in case you don’t know good-girl lexicon, speaking the truth unapologetically is not considered nice. Nice is what girls are asked to perform to be considered desirable. Nice girls are soft, compassionate and, above all, agreeable. Nice girls don’t complain, have needs, ask for what they want, say no, get angry, refuse to do something, or make a fuss. Nice girls apologize when they get the wrong drink order.

Nice, however, is not just about gender. It is about power. When interacting with people with less power, sociologists have noted, people with power expect the less powerful to display considerate, cooperative, and nice behavior. When they don’t, people with more power aren’t just surprised—they’re annoyed and, even more, threatened. Not acting nice toward people with power is an inherent challenge to their privileged status.

Finish reading on our blog.

Read more