Ted Talk: Fight for Disability Rights



This discussion guide is designed for programming at American Spaces. American Spaces should work with their Public Affairs Section to ensure that this topic and video are appropriate for American Spaces audiences.


Video Title: Our fight for disability rights – and why we aren’t done yet Year Release: 2016
Duration: 17 min
English Level: Intermediate Speaker: Judith Heumann – Activist and advocate for the civil rights of people with disabilities
Themes: Disability, discrimination, and opportunity
Link: http://bit.ly/TdTlkDisR


 Judith Heumann’s moving talk addresses the progress made in securing civil rights for people with disabilities through the lens of her own life story. She takes us from her childhood where she faced impediments to attending elementary school to her advocacy as a leader in the Disability Rights Movement. Throughout, she stresses the importance of being one’s own advocate as well as finding like-minded individuals when looking to achieve positive change. She ends her talk by reminding us that despite all that has been accomplished in the United States, there is still more to do both in the United States and around the world.


Disability – A physical, mental, cognitive, or developmental condition that impairs, interferes with, or limits a person’s ability to engage in certain tasks or actions or participate in typical daily activities and interaction.

Discrimination – A prejudiced or prejudicial outlook, action, or treatment.

Board of Education – An official group of citizens controlling the elementary and secondary public-school education in a state, county, city, or town.

Reasonable Accommodation – Something done to accommodate a disabled person that does not jeopardize safety or pose an undue hardship for the individual or group doing it.

Activism – A doctrine or practice that emphasizes direct vigorous action especially in support of/or opposition to one side of an issue.


  • This video is shareable on social media, and Facebook’s watch party feature can be used to stream this video.
  • Consider inviting a local expert or U.S. official to facilitate discussion during and after the webinar.
  • Preview the video beforehand to determine which parts you will show.
  • For more tips go here.

Discussion Questions

  • Why are disability rights a national and international issue? How are disability rights addressed in your country?
  • What does the speaker mean when she says, “disability is a family you can join at any point in your life?”
  • How did the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) change daily life in the United States? Does your country have any similar laws?
  • Why does Judith Heumann end her talk with the comment that she needs to catch her bus?

Additional Resources

The views expressed in these links and resources do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. government.

Updated April 2023