3 disabled activists you need to know about

To celebrate Disability History Month, we’re sharing the achievements of 3 brilliant activists who are helping to make our world a fairer place.
  Published:  01 Dec 2021    |      2 minute read

Disabled people make up a sizable proportion of our society – nearly 1 in 5 in the UK. According to the United Nations Human Rights Council, disabled people are the most "adversely affected in an emergency", emergencies like wildfires and floods – all set to become more frequent due to climate change. Yet still, disabled people are continually left out of climate conversations. We saw it at COP26, where Israeli minister Karine Elharrar couldn’t enter the conference because there was no wheelchair access.

Disabled voices are incredibly valuable and needed when finding a fair way forward for everyone. We can’t have any justice movement without including and working with disabled people.

To illustrate the point, here's 3 incredible activists working to make our planet fairer.

1. Judy Heumann

In 1977, disabled activist Judy Heumann led a historic 24-day sit-in – called the 504 sit in – which protested the failure to enforce the legislation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.  This failure had massive impacts on disabled people as the act stated that no federal programme could discriminate against a disabled person.

This sit-in led to mass coverage worldwide, empowering thousands of disabled people around the globe. Their efforts were a success: Secretary Califano enacted the regulations for Section 504 on April 28, 1977.

This was a historic example of the power of protest, without which there might not be an Americans with Disabilities Act.

Read more in an article with Judy Herman herself.

2. Pauline Castres

Pauline Castres is a policy and advocacy professional with 10 years of experience working with local and national governments, EU institutions, and UN agencies.

She’s also doing incredible work around the inclusion of disabled people in the climate justice movement. She’s an artist who illustrates disabled people, bringing their experiences into focus.

Here is just one example of her work, highlighting the issue of eco-ableism and how we don’t consider the disabled experience in conversations about climate.

3. Dr. Victor Pineda

Dr. Victor Pineda is a leading global expert on disability rights, policy, planning and design and has worked closely with the likes of the United Nations, UNESCO, and cabinet-level officials to develop policies and programs that include disabled people as equal stakeholders in development.

Listen to him speak about cities and how they are still leaving people with disabilities out. 

Inclusion is not just looking at ramps, but looking about the broad spectrum of human conditions

Dr Victor Pineda