Haben Girma: The Blind Lady Who Broke Barriers

Haben Girma: The Blind Lady Who Broke Barriers

Once upon a time, in the vibrant city of Oakland, California, a remarkable story began to unfold – a story that would inspire countless individuals and redefine the boundaries of achievement. At the center of this narrative stands Haben Girma, a woman whose unbreakable spirit and unwavering determination shattered the constraints of disability and transformed her into a beacon of hope for people around the world.
Haben Girma was born on July 29, 1988, in Oakland, California, to Eritrean immigrant parents. Her journey began with an extraordinary challenge: she was born deaf-blind. Haben’s parents, who had fled war-torn Eritrea in search of a better life, were determined to provide their daughter with every opportunity to succeed. They believed in her potential, and their unwavering support would become the cornerstone of her resilience.
Haben’s journey towards educational and personal achievement was far from easy. Growing up, she was the only deaf-blind student in her public schools. Communication was a constant struggle. Her persistence and willingness to embrace new ways of learning, such as braille and sign language, became the cornerstones of her education. Haben recalls the profound influence of her mother, who tirelessly advocated for her right to access education and develop her full potential.
In 2006, Haben embarked on her college journey, enrolling at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon. It was here that her indomitable spirit and commitment to inclusivity truly flourished. She navigated a world designed primarily for sighted and hearing individuals, overcoming challenges with grace and determination.
Haben’s decision to major in sociology and anthropology was inspired by her desire to create a more inclusive and equitable world. She believed that by understanding human societies, their cultures, and their norms, she could advocate more effectively for the rights of individuals with disabilities. Her professors and peers soon recognized her as an exceptional student who was breaking down barriers with each stride.
One of the defining moments of Haben’s life occurred during her sophomore year at Lewis & Clark. She learned about a groundbreaking program at Harvard Law School called the Access to Legal Education (ABLE) project, which aimed to ensure that students with disabilities had equal access to legal education. Determined to be part of this transformational endeavor, Haben applied and was accepted.
Harvard Law School presented Haben with a whole new set of challenges, but she was not deterred. She navigated a maze of complex case law, legal theory, and rigorous academic requirements, all without the ability to see or hear. For example, she used a digital Braille device that translated text into Braille, allowing her to read case law and legal documents. She also relied on an interpreter for lectures and discussions, who communicated using the deafblind manual alphabet—a tactile method where words are spelled into the palm.
Haben’s remarkable journey of becoming the first deaf-blind person to graduate from Harvard Law School captured the attention and admiration of people worldwide. Her story was a testament to the power of determination, unwavering support, and the pursuit of one’s dreams, no matter the odds.
Upon graduating from Harvard, Haben chose to use her unique talents and legal education to advocate for those who faced challenges similar to hers. She became an attorney at Disability Rights Advocates in Berkeley, California, where she tirelessly fought for the rights of individuals with disabilities. She quickly established herself as a leading advocate, and her impact reverberated through her work.
One of her notable cases involved advocating for a blind individual who had been denied access to a digital library. Haben’s tenacity and legal acumen led to a settlement that expanded access for countless people with disabilities. It was yet another example of her relentless commitment to breaking down barriers.
Haben’s journey continued to inspire others, and she recognized the need to share her story and advocate for disability rights on a larger scale. She soon embarked on a mission to become a sought-after public speaker, delivering speeches on topics such as accessibility, equality, and inclusive technology. Her engaging and passionate talks resonated with audiences worldwide.
In 2016, Haben was honored to meet President Barack Obama at the White House, where she was recognized as a Champion of Change for her advocacy in promoting accessible technology. Her work in encouraging tech companies to prioritize accessibility has had a profound impact on the lives of individuals with disabilities. Companies started recognizing that creating accessible products was not only a moral imperative but also a smart business decision.
Haben’s accomplishments did not stop there. She became an author, publishing her memoir titled “Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law.” In the book, she shared her life story, her struggles, and her triumphs, offering a profound message of hope and determination to her readers.
Haben’s work in accessibility extends beyond the legal and literary realms. She continues to push the boundaries of what technology can achieve in terms of inclusivity. Her advocacy for accessible design has led to partnerships with major tech companies, such as Apple, where she worked on projects to enhance accessibility features on Apple devices, making them more user-friendly for people with disabilities.
As Haben’s impact continued to spread, she was named one of Forbes’ “30 Under 30” in the field of law and policy. Her recognition as a leader and advocate for inclusivity was a testament to her unwavering dedication to breaking down barriers and reshaping the world for the better.
Today, Haben Girma’s journey serves as an enduring source of inspiration for people around the world. She is a living testament to the limitless potential of the human spirit. Her story reminds us that no challenge is insurmountable, and no barrier is too high when we have the determination and support to overcome it.
Haben Girma’s life is a beacon of hope for those facing obstacles and adversity. Her accomplishments illustrate that with resilience, determination, and the belief in one’s abilities, individuals can overcome any obstacle and make a lasting impact on the world. She continues to inspire, motivate, and advocate for a more inclusive and accessible world, where the only limits are the ones we place on ourselves.
In conclusion, the story of Haben Girma is a testament to the strength of the human spirit and the power of determination. Her journey from being born deaf-blind to becoming a Harvard Law School graduate, a renowned advocate for disability rights, and a global inspiration is a remarkable tale of breaking barriers and shaping a limitless world. Haben’s story teaches us that no challenge is too great to conquer and that every individual has the potential to make a difference in the world.

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