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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. She received the Helen Keller Achievement Award, and a spot on Forbes 30 Under 30. Haben travels the world consulting and public speaking, teaching clients the benefits of fully accessible products and services. She’s a talented storyteller who helps people frame difference as an asset. She resisted society’s low expectations, choosing to create her own pioneering story. Haben is working on a book that will be published by Hachette 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

Events

Recent News

It’s a boy! Meet Mylo, my new Seeing Eye dog

“You just came back from dog jail, huh?” Aunt Nunu nudged my arm.

I laughed. “Exactly!” I’d just spent three weeks training at The Seeing Eye, the world’s oldest guide dog school. “We had to wake up every morning to take our dogs out at 5:30 AM.”

“Are you kidding me?!”

“I wish. We worked all day, until about 8 PM. We trained with our dogs through complicated walks, crossed weird intersections, navigated tight grocery aisles, boarded trains… The goal was to fully invest three weeks of our time, and hearts, to build a strong relationship. Once we go home it’s back to work, house chores, social events, and it becomes harder to prioritize the relationship.”

I reached down and pet my new dog, Mylo. He’s a medium-sized German Shepherd who loves moving at top speed. At the moment he lay stretched out on the floor, perfectly relaxed at a family gathering full of lively conversations, people moving in an out of the house, and lots of delicious Eritrean food. “Good boy.”

“He looks so well-trained. What does he do, exactly?”

“He guides. When we walk, my hand holds his harness handle, which goes around his shoulders and chest. As he turns, slows, or stops, I can feel all of that through the harness. He goes around obstacles, stops at steps, and stops for oncoming cars. I give him instructions, ‘left, right, forward.’ I’m the one who knows where we’re going. He follows instructions. If I tell him to go forward and he thinks it’s not […]

July 24th, 2018|

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|