Renowned activist Judy Heumann has died at age 75. Heumann was responsible for helping secure legislation that protected and provided support to people with disabilities.

When she was 2 years old, Heumann experienced post-polio syndrome, and the effects caused her to lose the ability to walk. She used a wheelchair for the rest of her life, and because of that experience, she fought for herself and others to get access and rights for the rest of her life, The Associated Press reported.

“Disability only becomes a tragedy when society fails to provide the things we need to lead our lives — job opportunities or barrier-free buildings, for example,” she told NPR in 1987. “It is not a tragedy to me that I’m living in a wheelchair.”

Judy Heumann, center, is applauded during her swearing-in as U.S. Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Service by Judge Gail Bereola, left, in Berkeley, Calif., on Tuesday, June 29, 1993. Standing at left is Berkeley Mayor Loni Hancock with sign language interpreter Joseph Quinn, and Julie Weissman, right, in attendance with a large audience. | Susan Ragan, File, Associated Press

Who was Judy Heumann and what did Judy Heumann do?

One of her biggest contributions was lobbying for “legislation that eventually led to the federal Americans with Disabilities Acts, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and the Rehabilitation Act,” per AP.

She longed to work as a teacher but kept hitting barriers with discrimination, and she started pushing for inclusivity for people with disabilities ever since. She served as an official during the Clinton administration and as a special adviser in the Ohio State Department, The New York Times reported.

In 1977, she and more than 100 others protested against the secretary of health at the time, Joseph A. Califano Jr., failing to sign provisions in legislation from the Rehabilitation Act that outlawed discrimination against disabled people by April 5. The protest involved a sit-in in a San Francisco federal building that lasted nearly a month calling for Section 504 to be enacted and enforced to protect people with disabilities, according to The Times.

“We will no longer allow the government to oppress disabled individuals,” Heumann said during a special congressional hearing. “We want the law enforced. We want no more segregation.”

Califano did sign Section 504 on April 28, paving the way for a broader protection to people with disabilities with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

In 2020, Heumann released her autobiography, “Being Heumann: An Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Rights Activist,” and shortly after that, a documentary was released that celebrated her, called “Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution.” It followed a summer camp for children with disabilities in New York. In the documentary, Heumann was a camp counselor, and emerged “as the documentary’s star — a smart and self-confident organizer,” Joseph Shapiro writes for NPR.

What are people saying about Judy Heumann?

Celebrations honoring Heumann’s life and contributions to the world began pouring in after her death on Saturday.

Former President Barack Obama tweeted, “Judy Heumann dedicated her life to the fight for civil rights — starting as a young organizer at Camp Jened and later helping lead the disability rights movement. Michelle and I were fortunate to work with Judy over the years, and are thinking of her family and friends.”

Fellow activist and author Ady Barkan tweeted, “This weekend, Rachael, Carl, Willow, and I went to the UCSB basketball game. We sat right on the court, near the Gauchos’ bench, in accessible seats. The staff went out of their way to be helpful.”

Middle Church Rev. Jacqui Lewis tweeted, “When Judy Heumann was told to move her disability rally because the state building didn’t have ramps, they dragged their wheelchairs up the steps — highlighting the exact cruelty they were protesting. Gratitude for a life that wouldn’t wait for justice.”

Author Sara Nović tweeted, “If you consider yourself on the side of justice and human rights in any significant way and do not know what a loss we just suffered, please educate yourself on the life and work of Judy Heumann. She changed the world. Then ask yourself why you didn’t know this story. We owe so much to Judy Heumann.”

Former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton tweeted, “Judy Heumann’s lifelong advocacy for the rights and dignity of people with disabilities made the world a better place for everyone. She served under Bill’s administration and with me at State, and her voice will be much missed.”

“It wasn’t about glory for my sister or anything like that at all. It was always about how could she make things better for other people,” her brother, Rich Heumann, told the AP.