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The International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) presented its 2023 Charles T. Manatt Democracy Award posthumously to Judith Heumann, widely respected as the mother of the disability rights movement. Judy embodies IFES’s vision of democracy for a better future, as she devoted her life and career to advancing the rights of people with disabilities in government, philanthropy, international development, culture, and business.
“Judy’s passing in March of 2023 makes this a timely moment to honor her legacy and celebrate her continued impact, including the powerful influence she had on our own inclusion work at IFES,” IFES President and CEO Tony Banbury said. “Judy’s legacy lives on as she continues to inspire people around the world to build inclusive communities and democracies that deliver for all.”
Judy, who used a wheelchair since childhood because of polio, helped pave the way for major civil rights laws, including the Rehabilitation Act in 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990, prohibiting discrimination based on disability. She went on to serve in multiple presidential administrations and non-governmental organizations.
Judy also gave her time generously to IFES’s global inclusion work: she contributed to IFES publications, spoke at IFES events on Capitol Hill, and joined IFES in supporting the creation of a permanent Office of International Disability Rights at the U.S. Department of State.
Because of the work of people like Judy, governments, and businesses are focused on protecting and advancing the rights of people with disabilities. We envision an evening that includes participation by representatives of different sectors, including government, business, and civil society.
The IFES 2023 Democracy Awards was held on Tuesday, October 17, in Washington, D.C. The evening included advocates for democracy, human rights, and governance, including three IFES civil society partners deeply impacted by the legacy of Judy Heumann, Abia Akram, a Pakistani disability rights activist and the founder of the National Forum of Women with Disabilities; Yuliia Sachuk, co-founder and president of Fight for Right, a Ukrainian organization of people with disabilities; and Ganesh Singh, Director of the Guyana Council of Organizations for Persons with Disabilities (GCOPD). Singer-songwriter, Lachi performed "Lift Me Up", a tribute to Judy Heumann. IFES Sr. Advisor for Inclusion, Virginia Atkinson, presented the award to Heumann's husband, Jorge Pineda.