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About Haben

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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.

Topics

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.

Contact

Send speaking requests, media inquiries, and other questions to:

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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

What People Say About Haben

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

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

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.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Sample Videos

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|

Events

Recent News

Voice, Sign, Type: The Lively Communication Dance

My friend Treshelle Edmond is a Deaf actress and phenomenal communicator. We met up after her performance in “Children of a Lesser God,” now playing on Broadway. The play spotlights Deaf culture, and many Deaf actors, directors, and community members contributed to the show’s success.

Treshelle introduced me to her friends. One after another, each person watched my hands as I signed in the air between us. They then responded by typing on my wireless keyboard, accommodating my preference for braille. The conversations bounced back-and-forth through these two different channels. We held space for a moment of connection, looking past typos and signos.

“It’s wonderful to meet a friend of Treshelle,” Joshua Jackson typed.

“She’s amazing! Congratulations to you, too.” Josh played one of the leading characters.

“Thanks,” he said. “I’ve learned so much from Treshelle.” A few moments later, Josh wrote, “Would you sign that again? Slowly. It’s a little hard when it’s fast.”

“Absolutely.” My hands slowed down, carefully shaping each sign.

Over the next minute, Josh asks me to repeat myself two more times. Was my signing that bad? Did I do something wrong? Maybe he grew up using a different sign language, like French Sign Language?

“Happy to sign that again. I’m wondering… What’s your first language? What’s the easiest way for you to communicate?”

“Well, as a hearing person—“

“I thought you were Deaf!”

“Really?”

“The last four people I talked to are Deaf.” My shoulders shake with laughter. “I can’t believe I just assumed you’re Deaf. Anyways, I don’t mind voicing. Usually I use my […]

May 15th, 2018|

Maxine, the sweetest, smartest, sneakiest Seeing Eye Dog

Maxine, the sweetest, smartest, sneakiest Seeing Eye Dog died on Monday April 16, 2018.

Maxine loved wearing her harness and going on adventures. If I wanted to walk with her, though, I had to earn that right. In our first week together she crashed me into planters, chairs, and even stairs. “It takes time to build a relationship,” her trainer explained. “She has to want to guide you. Give her lots of love.”

We spent three exhausting weeks training at The Seeing Eye. “Good girl,” I cheered when she reached the end of the block without tripping me. Delighted with the praise, she challenged herself to earn more. Step-by-step, praise-by-praise, the trust between us grew. A week later she navigated the hectic streets of Times Square. That’s when I knew she’d let me be her human.

We crisscrossed the country on compliments. “Wonderful!” When she climbed the steep trails along Alaska’s Mendenhall Glacier. “Brava!” When she took us safely across the streets of San Francisco. “Okay.” When she peed on the White House lawn. Better outside than in. We traveled as a team from August 2009 to March 2018 when she experienced cancer. She was ten years old.

Her brilliant brain assessed each new situation. I’d give her directions, “Left,” “Right,” “Forward,” and she’d find the safest way through. Maxine logged each trip in her memory. On our way back I wouldn’t need to check the GPS because Maxine always knew the way home. We visited Harvard last year, four years after graduation. As […]

April 17th, 2018|