Perkins President Steven Rothstein concluded the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day assembly, on Jan. 16, 2012, with a call to action.

“Civil rights is up to all of you,” he said. “Don’t wait for the next Martin Luther King Jr. or Helen Keller; freedom must be demanded by the oppressed.” Yet he acknowledged every movement needs a leader who can articulate these demands. For Americans who are disabled, they have found one such advocate in the annual assembly’s keynote, Haben Girma.

Prior to President Rothstein’s closing statements, a packed Dwight Hall lent their ears or hands (in the case of sign-language interpreters) to the inspirational words of disability rights advocate, Haben Girma, the first Harvard Law School student in history who is deafblind. Besides her personal academic accomplishments, she strategized the arguments to persuade Congress to increase funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and to pass the 21stCentury Communications and Video Accessibility Act (21st CVAA), which became law two months after her visit to Washington, D.C. Reading from her refreshable braille display, Haben referenced her own life experiences to illustrate two key components of self-advocacy for disability rights…

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