Disability Rights Leaders

Judy Heumann

Judy Heumann

Judy Heumann is a disability rights activist and politician who is known for her pivotal work in community organizing, disability rights policy development, and globalizing the Independent Living Movement. In 1977, she was one of the main organizers who led the 504 sit-ins, which caused Joseph Califano the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare to sign this landmark legislation. Under the Clinton Administration, Heumann served as the Assistant Secretary to the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation. She also served as the Special Advisor on Disability Rights for the U.S. State Department under President Barak Obama.

Learn more about Judy Heumann

Justin and Yoshiko Dart

Justin and Yoshiko Dart

This power couple paved the way to many groundbreaking advancements in the disability rights movement. Justin Dart was a business mogul, politician, and activist most known for his work in expanding civil rights and opportunities for people with disabilities. Yoshiko Dart was a guiding force in his shift from the corporate world to the world of politics. As a team they worked to further the aims of the disability rights movement and played a large role in getting the ADA signed into law.

Learn more about Justin and Yoshiko Dart

Judi Chamberlin

Judi Chamberlin

In the 1960’s Judi Chamberlin began her paradigm-shifting work as one of the central founders of the psychiatric survivors movement after a period of involuntarily confinement in a psychiatric institution. Chamberlin is most known for her pioneering work in creating centers for peer advocacy, advancing the rights of people with psychiatric disabilities, and leading the shift in the narrative around coercive mental health care.

Learn more about Judi Chamberlin

Brad Lomax

Brad Lomax

As a member of the Black Panther Party and the disability rights movement, Brad Lomax played a critical role in solidifying cross-movement solidarity between both groups during the historical 504 Sit-ins. During the 28 day occupation of the San Francisco Office of the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, Lomax organized the procurement and delivery of food and medical supplies to the 150 activists taking part in this watershed political action. Lomax’s work as a bridge builder between racial and disability rights communities was central in coalition building between both movements.

Learn more about Brad Lomax

Bob Kafka

Bob Kafka

Bob Kafka started his journey in disability rights as a VISTA volunteer for the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities. This work led him to engage in his first action with ADAPT in 1984. Following this, Kafka and his wife Stephanie Thomas founded ADAPT of Texas. As a prominent figure in ADAPT, Kafka has played a large role in influencing the aims of the grassroots organization and has mentored many of ADAPT’s up and coming leaders.

Learn more about Bob Kafka

Marca Bristo

Marca Bristo

Marca Bristo is a disability rights activist and the CEO and President of Access Living. Bristo also serves as the president of the United States International Council on Disabilities. As a central figure in the Independent Living Movement she helped found Access Living, one of the first ten CILs in the United States. Some of Bristo’s most notable contributions to the disability rights movement include helping write the ADA and co-founding the National Council on Independent Living. She currently sits on Governor JB Pritzker’s transition team.

Learn more about Marca Bristo

Ed Roberts

Ed Roberts

Ed Roberts was one of the founding members of the Independent Living movement. As one of the first disabled students to study at UC Berkeley, he helped organize a group of disabled student activist called the “Rolling Quads” who created the United States’ first student-led disabled services program at a university. Ed Roberts served as the director of the California Department of Vocational Rehabilitation and co-founded the World Institute on Disability.

Learn more about Ed Roberts

Mia Mingus

Mia Mingus

Mia Mingus is one of the founders of the disability justice movement and central member of the Bay Area Transformative Justice Collective. As a queer, Korean, and physically disabled activist she works as a community organizer to support the growing intersectionality in the movement. In her work as prolific writer and public speaker, Mingus has covered topics ranging from queer and racial liberation to ending sexual violence through transformative justice.

Learn more about Mia Mingus

Lydia X. Z. Brown

Lydia X. Z. Brown

Lydia Brown is an autistic disability rights activist, writer and public speaker, and chairperson of the Massachusetts Developmental Disabilities Council. As a genderqueer/non-binary, transnationally adopted East Asian person on the autism spectrum, Brown frequently covers topics of race, queerness, and disability in their work. Brown has co-organized various disability rights protests and spoken out against the use of electroshock treatment as a form of behavioral modification.

Learn more about Lydia X. Z. Brown

Ari Ne’eman

Ari Ne’eman

Ari Ne’eman is an autism rights activist and co-founder of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network. He was the first person on the spectrum to be appointed to the National Council on Disability and is a consultant to the ACLU. As an autistic leader in the disability rights movement he has increased representation of voices on the spectrum in spheres of activism, politics, and media coverage.

Learn more about Ari Ne’eman

Alice Wong

Alice Wong

Alice Wong is an Asian American disability rights activist, journalist, and founder of the Disability Visibility Project. This project is a comprehensive collection of narratives and media created by people with disabilities living in the United States. She is also an advisory board member for Asians and Pacific Islanders with Disabilities of California, and a presidential appointee to the National Council on Disability.

Learn more about Alice Wong

Vilissa Thompson

Vilissa Thompson

Vilissa Thompson is a black disability rights activist, writer, and the founder and CEO of Ramp Your Voice, an organization that aims to advance self-advocacy and liberation for people with disabilities. Thompson is also a licensed social worker, advocate, and disability rights consultant. In addition to her creation of the Black Disabled Woman’s Syllabus, she coined the viral twitter hashtag #DisabilityTooWhite, which has been used to address racial inequity in the disability rights movement.

Learn more about Vilissa Thompson

Dior Vargas

Dior Vargas

Dior Vargas is a Latinx mental health disability activist, feminist, writer, and creator of the People of Color and Mental Illness Photo Project. Vargas is passionate about destigmatizing mental illness for people of color. In addition to delivering keynote speeches on mental health issues for POC across the country, Vargas is a crisis counselor for Crisis Text Line, and the outreach coordinator for Project Urok.

Learn more about Dior Vargas

Major Owens

Major Owens

Major Owens was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from New York’s 11th district. He is known for his instrumental role in helping pass the ADA. Owens was a great champion for disability rights and earned the respect of many politicians and activists in the movement.

Learn more about Major Owens

Harriet Tubman Collective

Harriet Tubman Collective

The Harriet Tubman Collective is a community of black disabled and deaf activists who organize to build radically inclusive community centering racial and disability justice.

Learn more about Harriet Tubman Collective