Judith “Judy” Heumann, a pioneering disability rights activist, passed away on March 4th, 2023, at the age of 75. Throughout her life, Heumann was a tireless advocate for the rights of persons with disabilities, working to make sure their voices were heard and that they had equal access to education, employment, and other opportunities. Judy was instrumental in shaping the work of the World Bank around disability inclusion. From 2002-2006, she served as the World Bank's first Adviser on Disability and Development, raising the profile of disability within the institution and paving the way for work with governments on the inclusion of persons with disabilities in development projects and within national level policy and law. She helped to build the capacity of Bank staff regarding accessibility and inclusion and fostered connections to organizations of persons with disabilities (OPDs) and other civil society organizations.
In her role as Advisor for International Disability Rights at the US Department of State during the Obama administration, Judy worked with BIC to push for the inclusion of disability into the World Bank’s safeguard policies. In 2016, the World Bank’s Board of Directors approved its new safeguards, the Environmental and Social Framework (ESF). The ESF includes protections for persons with disabilities, including that projects look at the specific impacts on persons with disabilities, that persons with disabilities benefit from rather than be harmed by Bank projects, and that stakeholder engagement be accessible to persons with disabilities, which gives them a voice in the design and implementation of development projects.
Rachel Burton, BIC’s Social Inclusion Director, commented on BIC’s work with Judy: “Judy was always eager to meet with our disability partners from around the world. She shared her knowledge, insight, and inspired our partners to push the World Bank and their governments for better, more inclusive development projects and for implementation of laws and policies in their countries that addressed the needs and rights of persons with disabilities.”
BIC will continue pushing the World Bank and other multilateral development banks (MDBs) to design and implement disability-inclusive projects, honoring Judy’s legacy.