March is Women’s History Month! We will be sharing posts this month featuring disabled women from distant & recent history who have made an impact on our world. First up is Haben Girma, disability rights lawyer, author and public speaker. Haben was born in July 1988 in Oakland, California and lost her vision & hearing at an early age due to an unknown medical condition. She currently retains 1% of her eyesight. She is the daughter of Eritrean immigrants, her mother having fled Eritrea in 983 during the Eritrean War of Independence. Haben’s elder brother is also deafblind but lived in Eritrea, where his experience differed greatly from hers. Growing up in the United States, Haben benefited from the ADA as well as access to assistive technology.
Haben became the first deafblind student to attend and graduate from Harvard Law School, in 2013. She has gone on to work hard for her fellow disabled peoples through working in the legal system of the United States, including her work with the National Federation of the Blind on a landmark case against Scribd which resulted in a federal district court ruling that the ADA covered online business and therefore requiring access to blind readers.
At the 25th anniversary event for the Americans With Disabilities act at the White House, Haben met with President Barack Obama to demonstrate and give remarks on the power of accessible technology. (The YouTube video embedded here features her remarks; captions available within the video tool.)
In 2019 Haben released a memoir title “Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law”. She stands at the intersection of gender, race and multiple disabilities, and as a powerful advocate for the disability community. (We would be amiss to leave out mention of her guide dog Mylo, a German Shepherd.)