In honor of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, Meta's Vice President of Product Design and Responsible Innovation, Margaret Stewart, hosted legendary civil rights activist Judy Heumann this week. In addition to her world-renowned work as a disability rights leader, she is also the author of the book Being Heumann, creator of the podcast The Heumann Perspective, and a subject of the Oscar-nominated documentary Crip Camp.
Among her many accomplishments, in 1977 Judy led the 504 Sit-in (a pivotal disability rights protest) at federal offices in San Francisco, which helped pave the way for the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, made clear that disability rights are civil rights, and influenced countless global policies. It’s hard to imagine much of the world without the influence of her activism — which moved people to see that barriers lay in our environment, not in the individual — and her impact is reflected in the design of everything from curb cuts on sidewalks to closed captioning on TV and the internet. As Judy puts it so well: “People don’t get that the equivalent of not having captioning is having the mute button on all the time — and we would not accept that as a society, right?”
Judy also shared her thoughts on how this plays out in today’s online world, and what technology companies can be doing to help support the ongoing progress in disability rights.
“I think that's one of the important parts of what's going on at Facebook and many other companies around the country is, as more disabled people have been hired in organizations, people are coming together for various reasons,” she says. “But I assume that one of the reasons they’re coming together at Facebook is to look at what’s working, what’s not working, and how to make changes so that people who have disabilities, or someone in their family who has a disability, can come to work and bring their whole self to the table.”
Judy is a true icon who inspires our work on access and inclusion each day. Here are some highlights from Margaret’s and Judy’s conversation on the importance of allyship and of making accessibility a foundational value in all our work.