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About Haben

Photo of Haben

The first Deafblind person to graduate from Harvard Law School, Haben Girma advocates for equal opportunities for people with disabilities. President Obama named her a White House Champion of Change, and Forbes recognized her in Forbes 30 Under 30. Haben travels the world consulting and public speaking, teaching clients the benefits of fully accessible products and services. Haben is a talented storyteller who helps people frame difference as an asset. She resisted society’s low expectations, choosing to create her own pioneering story. Because of her disability rights advocacy she has been honored by President Obama, President Clinton, and many others. Haben is also writing a memoir that will be published by Grand Central Publishing in 2019.

Haben has been featured extensively in media around the world, including the BBC, NBC, Forbes, NPR, and many more. If you work in media, please read this brief guide on producing positive disability stories. You can read Haben’s FAQ and featured work.

Speaking & Consulting

Haben offers accessibility and diversity training, consulting, and professional speaking services. Haben combines her knowledge of law, sociology, and technology to teach clients the benefits of fully accessible products and services. Her insights help to expand our thinking, creating lasting, positive change among people and communities.


Disability & Innovation: The Universal Benefits of Inclusive Design

People with disabilities represent the largest minority group, numbering one billion worldwide. Reaching a group of this scale creates value for everyone. Organizations that prioritize accessibility benefit by gaining access to a much larger user base, improving the experience for both disabled and non-disabled users, and facilitating further innovation. Watch Haben teach 4,000 developers the connection between disability & innovation at Apple’s 2016 Worldwide Developers Conference.

Leadership and Advocacy

The daughter of refugees, a Black woman, and disabled, Haben developed a powerful path to success, rooted in her belief that inclusion is a choice. We all have the power to advocate for positive change. Becoming a leader begins by role-modeling the change we need in this world. Haben provides valuable insights that help people become better leaders. Watch Haben share leadership advice with St. Catherine University’s graduates in her Commencement Address.

Communication Strategies for a Winning Story

Powerful stories drive successful businesses. Compelling stories communicate what sets an organization apart and how that difference serves as an advantage. Haben Girma is a talented storyteller who helps people frame difference as an asset. Born Deafblind, Haben fought off low expectations, choosing to create her own pioneering story that has led to international acclaim. Through an engaging presentation, Haben provides participants with communication strategies for developing a winning story.


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Haben talks with President Obama at the White House 25th Anniversary celebration of the ADA. (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Bill Clinton shakes hands with Haben Girma

Haben had the honor of introducing President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden at the White House 25th Anniversary Celebration of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Thank you so much, Haben, for that amazing introduction, and for working to make sure that students with disabilities get a world-class education, just like you have. So please give Haben a big round of applause.

President Barack Obama

The Clinton Global Initiative University loved Haben’s keynote.

She got out of Harvard, and you know what she’s doing? She is an advocate for opportunities for people with disabilities. Because in fact they have enormous ability, and all over the world that ability is going untapped, diminishing their lives and the rest of ours as well. So let’s give her a big round!

President Bill Clinton

Haben Awarded the Alexandrine Medal and Delivers Commencement Address at St. Catherine University

St. Catherine University honored Haben Girma with the Alexandrine Medal on May 22, 2016. Named after the Egyptian scholar Catherine of Alexandria, St. Catherine University awards the Alexandrine Medal to women who demonstrate an outstanding commitment to public service. Past recipients include Dorothy Day, Ann Bancroft, and Maya Angelou. Haben is the youngest person to receive the Alexandrine Medal.

After receiving the award, Haben delivered a deeply moving commencement address for St. Catherine’s graduating students.

June 27th, 2016|

Haben’s White House Remarks

Haben had the honor of introducing President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden at the White House 25th Anniversary Celebration of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Plain text transcript.

July 21st, 2015|

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Welcomes Haben to Ottawa

The Eritrean Youth Initiative (EYI) invited me to Ottawa to keynote their inaugural fundraiser dinner. The sold-out event on June 24th raised scholarships for high school students heading to college. My friend Negash Haile and his colleagues at EYI brought together Canadians from diverse backgrounds to recognize students making a difference.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was out of town this weekend, so he very generously wrote me a letter. In braille! Mr. Trudeau’s message below is the first braille letter written by a sitting Prime Minister. Because he used transparent braille paper over a print page, both sighted and blind individuals can read the letter. This is what inclusion looks like. Providing information in multiple formats, such as braille and print, allows access for disabled and non-disabled individuals.

What an incredible honor to receive this gift. A thousand thank-yous, Mr. Trudeau!

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Letter

June 12, 2017

Dear Ms. Girma,

I am writing to express my warmest welcome to Ottawa, as you visit us during Deaf-Blind Awareness Month.

I wish to take this opportunity, as well, to recognize you for your lifelong advocacy for people with disabilities, especially for the deaf-blind community. As a teacher and Prime Minister, I am particularly grateful for your work to ensure that students with disabilities have access to the tools they need to thrive at school and beyond. When our society is inclusive, we are all better off.

Once again, please accept my warmest welcome to Ottawa. I sincerely hope that you enjoy your time here.

Justin Trudeau


June 25th, 2017|

Exploring Museum Accessibility in St. Louis

Here’s a fun video of me exploring the City Museum in St. Louis. Climbing the giant dome at the City Museum, every step brought a fun surprise! Because I’m Deafblind I climbed by touch. Also, my guide dog can’t climb ladders…yet! 🙂

I visited the City Museum while in St. Louis last month to serve as a keynote speaker at the American Alliance of Museums conference. Speaking to four thousand representatives from museums around the world, I explained how museums could reach a larger audience by making their programs accessible to the approximately 1.3 billion people with disabilities in our world. Some of the recommendations I shared include: removing architectural barriers to allow access for patrons with mobility disabilities, programming digital materials for accessibility by blind patrons, inserting captions to videos, developing exhibits that spotlight disability stories, and designing exhibits that engage patrons through sight, sound, and touch.

Most museums instruct patrons not to touch exhibits, denying access to blind patrons. By contrast, the St. Louis City Museum reaches a large audience by providing numerous hands-on exhibits. I had so much fun exploring the City Museum. Hopefully more museums around the world will work to make their exhibits accessible to blind people.

Video description: In the first scene, Maxine the Seeing Eye Dog guides Haben across an arched bridge with steep steps. A spiral staircase and blue sky is in the background. In the next scene, Haben begins climbing towards the ceiling of a massive metal dome, using a series of metal ladders […]

June 8th, 2017|