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Heumann Community Partnerships Lab

A banner for the Legacy & Futures: Judith E. Heumann Community Partnerships Lab. The banner depicts a collage of Judith E. Heumann's activism alongside UCLA imagery.

Legacy and Futures: The Judith E. Heumann Community Partnerships

These dynamic partnerships between UCLA faculty and disability community activists honor Judith E. Heumann’s legacy as the “mother of disability rights” and at the same time recognize today’s disability justice leaders and create opportunities for collaboration with UCLA faculty.  The Heumann Community Partnerships Lab aspires to yield new and radical practices of knowledge-making, advocacy, and action that focus on the inclusion of disability experiences and disability-led leadership.


The faculty-community partnerships explore ideas, experiment with models and practices, and develop activities or events that decenter the tenets of ableism permeating institutional structures. These partnerships will engage in dynamic conversations during an academic year and determine how to engage students and broader community audiences in new knowledge and understanding.

The Heumann Lab will connect UCLA with disability communities off campus in order to immerse UCLA’s new Disability Studies Interdepartmental Degree Program  in the disability community’s principle “Nothing about us, without us.” UCLA and its faculty will benefit from this engagement by connecting expansively and imaginatively with values and ideas that flourish outside the academy and through lived experience, incorporating that experience to re-frame university conventions of pedagogy, research, and knowledge production. 

For disability community activists, the university environment and faculty partnership can provide an opportunity to create “test kitchens” for new ideas and approaches to organizing and activism through innovative research or creative activity that grow out of lived disability experience and community organizing.  

To recognize the work of this partnership, the community activist will receive an honorarium/stipend of $20,000 and their UCLA  faculty partner will receive $10,000 to be applied to their research fund.  Additional funding to support public and small group programming or activities is also available.  The Heumann Community Partnerships Lab is conceived as a three-year initiative  beginning in the 2022-23 academic year.  Each year will engage one activist-faculty team. 

It is our hope that these partnerships will enrich the work and research of the community activists and UCLA faculty.

Judith E. Heumann

Headshot of Judith E. Heumann. She is a white woman with glasses smiling to the camera and wearing a bright blue shirt with purple flowers.

Judith E. Heumann was a lifelong advocate for the rights of disabled people. She was instrumental in the development and implementation of legislation, such as Section 504, the Individuals with Education Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act, and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

In 2021, Heumann spoke at the UCLA Regents’ Lecture, “Disrupting Ableism in Higher Education and Beyond” alongside Dr. Lauren Clark (UCLA), Andy Imperato (Disability Rights California), and Vivan Haun (Disability Rights California). Coinciding with the 16-day long undergraduate student sit-in of the Chancellor’s Office led by the Disabled Student Union, Heumann was both thrilled about the development of the Disability Studies major and supportive of the ongoing student activism. She regarded UCLA as a place where students, faculty, and staff can continue to do reflective and meaningful work that would advance access and inclusion for all.

Judith L. Smith

Headshot of Judith Smith. Credit: Juan Tallo

“I believe it is important for the university, and for our undergraduate students especially, to engage with the disability community at large—and, through such collaboration, advance access for all, understand more fully the lived experience of disability, and reframe our research, teaching, and learning.”

Judith L. Smith

Professor Emerita, Integrative Biology and Physiology
Founding Dean, UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music (2017-2019)
Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education, UCLA (1995-2012)

About the Donor

As vice provost for undergraduate education, Judi was responsive to the impassioned efforts of the late UCLA lecturer and disability advocate Jayne Spencer to create a Disability Studies minor at UCLA and provided the administrative home and initial resources that made the minor possible in 2007. By her own account, Judi has grown with the minor—due largely to her many conversations with Lucy Blackmar—becoming more aware of the issues around disability. 

She was particularly moved by the tributes to Judith Heumann—the “mother of the Disability Rights Movement”—at the time of her death in March 2023. Remembering the late disability advocate’s tenure as a Regents’ Lecturer at UCLA the year before, Judi was motivated to honor her legacy by supporting the disability studies faculty in their efforts to strengthen the community engagement focus within the new Disability Studies major.

Sponsored By

The Heumann Community Partnerships Lab is made possible with support from a philanthropic gift by former Dean and Vice Provost of Undergraduate Education, Judith L. Smith in honor of the late disability rights activist Judith E. Heumann, and funds from the UCLA Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.