Show Up to Disrupt

By Cyndi Rowland: For Complete Post, Click Here…

Last week many of us participated in Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD). On that day, I had the privilege to listen to a keynote address by Judy Heumann during Knowbility’s virtual AccessU. Some may know Ms. Heumann from leadership positions in the U.S. Dept of Education, the World Bank, or the U.S. State Department. Others would know her as a lifelong civil rights activist in the disability movement, or as an internationally-awarded and Oscar nominated contributor to the Netflix documentary Crip Camp (this is a must see IMHO).

I’m both energized and haunted by her keynote. She recounted lessons from the disability movement of the past and efforts to secure a more accessible present and future. While the entirety of her speech was amazing, there is one concept I can’t seem to get out of my head. Ms. Heumann reminded us all that if we want to change the status quo we must “show up to disrupt”.

She shared this phrase in the context of her lifelong civil rights activism. Ms. Heumann recounted a tremendous disappointment when, after years of disability activists working within the system to bring about policy changes, the Nixon Administration and Congress rejected the proposal to define disability as a protected class under federal law. This giant blow caused a powerful response. It resulted in civil disobedience actions that subsequently framed the disability movement and civil rights legislation for those with disabilities in the U.S.

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