Mélange Accessibility for All Magazine October 2020 - Page 112
Spotlight on the lives of two disability advocates
Judith Heumann & Fred Maahs , Jr . in a conversation with Debbie Austin , Editor in Chief , Mélange Magazine
Judy Heumann got polio when she was 18 months old . At the age of 18 , Fred Maahs , Jr ., had a diving accident which rendered him a paraplegic . Although they were born only 15 years apart , their experiences growing up in the United States as people with disabilities were as different as much as they were similar . I had the opportunity to speak with both of them recently to learn more about how they became advocates for people with disabilities .
JUDY : I was born in Philadelphia in 1947 and grew up in Brooklyn . I think I learned from birth how to be an activist because I faced discrimination early on , such as my denial of the right to go to school . At that time , in the 1940 ’ s and 1950 ’ s , there were no organizations composed of families who had kids with disabilities other than United Cerebral Palsy , so when I was eventually allowed to go to school , I was the only child there whose disability was not Cerebral Palsy . Camp Jened , a camp for children with disabilities
FRED : Mine was a standard childhood , attending elementary and high school in my Wilmington , Delaware community . However , at 18 years old , while on vacation with my family just a few days before I was due to start college , I dove into the bay from a boat and hit my head on a sand bar in a foot of water . My seventh vertebrae was broken , I was immediately paralyzed from the chest down , and my life as a person with a disability began . It was 1980 and it was 10 years before the Americans