Judith Heumann, the pioneering disability rights activist who told the story of her life in a critically acclaimed memoir, has died at 75, the New York Times reports.

Heumann, a Brooklyn native, was diagnosed with polio when she was 18 months old; the disease left her paraplegic. She was educated at Long Island University and University of California at Berkeley, and in 1970, applied to become a teacher in the New York City schools.

She was turned down because of her disability, but won a lawsuit she filed against the board of education, leading her to become the first public school teacher in New York to use a wheelchair. She continued her activism for the rest of her life, co-founding the World Institute on Disability and advising the World Bank and the U.S. Department of State.

In 2020, she published her memoir, Being Heumann: An Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Rights Activist, co-written with Kristen Joiner; a Kirkus critic praised the book as “a welcome account of politics in action, and for the best of causes.” The following year, Heumann and Joiner adapted the book for children, titling it Rolling Warrior: The Incredible, Sometimes Awkward, True Story of a Rebel Girl on Wheels Who Helped Spark a Revolution.

Admirers of Heumann paid tribute to her on social media. On Twitter, actor Marlee Matlin wrote, “Judith Heumann was a fearless champion for the rights of people with disabilities in our nation and around the world and millions of people who have faced barriers owe her a debt of gratitude. I will always remember her as my hero and my friend.”

And former President Barack Obama tweeted, “Judy Heumann dedicated her life to the fight for civil rights—starting as a young organizer at Camp Jened and later helping lead the disability rights movement. Michelle and I were fortunate to work with Judy over the years, and are thinking of her family and friends.”

Michael Schaub, a journalist and regular contributor to NPR, lives near Austin, Texas.