About Haben

The book cover shows Haben Girma in profile, confidently facing forward in a blue dress. The background is a warm red, and white text over the bottom half of the image says, ‘Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law. Haben Girma.’

The first Deafblind person to graduate from Harvard Law School, Haben Girma is a human rights lawyer advancing disability justice. President Obama named her a White House Champion of Change. She received the Helen Keller Achievement Award, a spot on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list, and TIME100 Talks. President Bill Clinton, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and Chancellor Angela Merkel have all honored Haben. Haben believes disability is an opportunity for innovation, and she teaches organizations the importance of choosing inclusion. The New York Times, Oprah Magazine, and TODAY Show featured her memoir, Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law.

Haben was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she currently lives. Her memoir takes readers on adventures around the world, including her parents’ homes in Eritrea and Ethiopia, building a school under the scorching Saharan sun, training with a guide dog in New Jersey, climbing an iceberg in Alaska, fighting for blind readers at a courthouse in Vermont, and talking with President Obama at The White House. Warm, funny, thoughtful, and uplifting, this captivating book is a testament to Haben’s determination to resist isolation and find the keys to connection.

The hard cover, paperback, eBook, and audiobook (narrated by Haben herself) are available at most bookstores. Learn more at the book page.

Speaking & Consulting

Choosing accessibility is not just about legal requirements, it’s also good business. Disabled people are the largest historically underrepresented group, numbering over 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 audience, improving the experience for both disabled and nondisabled people, and facilitating further innovation. Haben explains in this article, originally published in the Financial Times, “People with disabilities drive innovation.”

Haben provides consulting and public speaking on accessibility, diversity, and leadership. Her presentations have touched organizations as wide-ranging as Apple, GE, Lenovo, Microsoft, the New York Times, Oxford Law, Pearson Education, Stanford, and SXSW. The daughter of refugees and a black disabled woman, Haben built her path to success on the belief that inclusion is a choice. We all have the power to advocate. Her engaging presentations ignite audiences to make positive changes in their communities.

A brief disability accessibility guide.

A Presidential Moment


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

Javascript required to display email address.
Haben talks with President Obama at the White House 25th Anniversary celebration of the ADA. (Photo by Pete Souza)

Photo by Pete Souza

Haben and President Obama stand together at celebration of the 25th Anniversary of the ADA at the White House

Photo by Pete Souza

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

Recent News

Learning Mexican Sign Language

American Sign Language (ASL) is different from Mexican Sign Language (LSM). A patient & gifted Deaf LSM instructor, Yahir Alejandro taught me these signs. Will you, too, learn LSM or your local sign language?

For more from Yahir, follow him on Instagram @YahirAlejandroRM.

Video description: Yahir is a young, sighted, Deaf man, and Haben is a Deafblind woman in her thirties. She has her left hand over Yahir’s right hand at the beginning of the video and near the end to feel his signs.

Yahir signs and Haben voices: Uno, dos, tres.

Both sign first in American Sign Language, then in Mexican Sign Language while Haben voices: Hello. Hola. Good morning. Buenos días. Good afternoon. Buenas tardes. Good night. Buenas noches.

Haben signs to Yahir while voicing: Thank you. Gracias.

Yahir signs to Haben while she voices: You’re welcome. De nada.

Yahir signs to the camera (Haben still voicing): You wanna learn LSM? Follow me! Para aprender más LSM, sígueme.

The video ends with both of us smiling and applauding.

October 25th, 2023|

Binational Forum of Deaf Culture

Serving as the keynote speaker for the first Binational Forum of Deaf Culture, I met many passionate advocates working to increase accessibility in Mexico. Some things I learned:

The state of Sonora officially recognized Mexican Sign Language (LSM) as a language in 2022, thanks to the Deaf community’s awareness campaign.

There is an extreme shortage of interpreters. Encourage more people to study sign language interpreting and become certified.

While institutions accommodate hearing people by providing microphones and speakers, they often require Deaf people to pay for their interpreters. This is ableism. And because of systemic barriers, many students and job seekers can’t afford the cost. How can one earn money to pay the interpreter when they need communication access for the job interview or training course? It’s a vicious catch-22. The Forum inspired a new scholarship program to cover interpreting fees in Hermosillo. It’s my hope that one day Mexico will have a system liberating Deaf people from having to pay for interpreters.

Thank you to the Secretary of Education and Culture, the State University of Sonora, the Youth Council of the U.S. Consulate in Hermosillo, and the Deaf Community of Hermosillo! May there be many more binational forums of Deaf culture!

October 7th, 2023|