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  • Rolling Warrior: The Incredible, Sometimes Awkward, True Story of a Rebel Girl on Wheels Who Helped Spark a Revolution

Rolling Warrior: The Incredible, Sometimes Awkward, True Story of a Rebel Girl on Wheels Who Helped Spark a Revolution

Rolling Warrior: The Incredible, Sometimes Awkward, True Story of a Rebel Girl on Wheels Who Helped Spark a Revolution
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Release Date
June 15, 2021
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“If I didn’t fight, who would?”

Judy Heumann was only 5 years old when she was first denied her right to attend school. Paralyzed from polio and raised by her Holocaust-surviving parents in New York City, Judy had a drive for equality that was instilled early in life.

In this young readers’ edition of her acclaimed memoir, Being Heumann, Judy shares her journey of battling for equal access in an unequal world—from fighting to attend grade school after being described as a “fire hazard” because of her wheelchair, to suing the New York City school system for denying her a teacher’s license because of her disability. Judy went on to lead 150 disabled people in the longest sit-in protest in US history at the San Francisco Federal Building. Cut off from the outside world, the group slept on office floors, faced down bomb threats, and risked their lives to win the world’s attention and the first civil rights legislation for disabled people.

Judy’s bravery, persistence, and signature rebellious streak will speak to every person fighting to belong and fighting for social justice.

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1 review
A story behind the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act
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Learning Value
Born in 1947, Heumann had polio at a very young age, leaving her legs and arms very weak. She was used to being in a wheelchair, and went about her daily life as a child with modifications that she just took as normal for her, in the way that some children had curly hair while others had straight. This changed when she wasn't allowed to go to public school because the principal thought she would be a fire hazard. Her parents eventually got her into a class called Health Conservation 21, which included students from different ages with different levels of functioning. This was not ideal, but Heumann eventually got into a general education high school. Before instructional aides, she had to ask people to help her with the most basic functions like moving her wheelchair and getting to the rest room. Undaunted, she did well and got into college, hoping to become a teacher herself. Knowing that this might not be easy, since she could not think of any teachers in wheel chairs, she contacted the American Civil Liberties Union and asked for their advice. She was told to get her degree and contact them if she had trouble finding a job. Unsurprisingly, she did, but the ACLU concluded that being excluded from a license on the basis of a physical exam was not in violation of her rights. This lit a fire in Heumann, and she went on to work with the Center for Independent Living in California and was deeply involved with the protests when Joseph Califano, U.S. Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, refused to sign meaningful regulations for Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Much of the book is given to the details of the lengthy sit ins and other tactics that were used to finally change the minds of legislators about the rights of the disabled.
Good Points
This book moved so quickly that I didn't start putting bookmarks in it until Ms. Heumann was in college! The story was very compelling, and told in a very relatable voice. Incidents in her life are related in very matter-of-fact ways, and her philosophy that her situation isn't something that needs to be "fixed" is very clear. When it comes to the protest, I wonder if the many students who have 504 plans will be interested in knowing how those came about! An important, compelling story told in a way that middle schoolers will find interesting.

This reminded me very much of Karen, by Marie Killilea, which I loved when I was in middle school. It occurred to me when reading Rolling Warrior that reading Karen definitely formed how I think about people with disabilities. Karen struggled with some areas, but excelled in others, and her disability did not stop her from working towards her goals. Representation matters, and Heumann's is a great story that covers a period of time in my own life about which I was unaware. I knew that equal access legislation was put in place very late (1990), but hadn't realized how discriminatory education practices were until then.
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