How Haben Girma Became Harvard Law School’s First Deafblind Grad

How Haben Girma Became Harvard Law School’s First Deafblind Grad


This video contains descriptions
for the visually impaired Haben looking off camera,
lights in background So many people have a low expectations
for those of us with disabilities. Haben reading braille They see the
disability and think that’s the whole story. Haben looking and
smiling to camera But we’re complex. My name is Haben Girma. I’m an advocate for
people with disabilities. Photo: Haben wearing a cap and
gown, receiving her diploma at graduation from Harvard Law I graduated from Harvard Law in 2013. Haben at Riverside Country School with
an audience of students behind her And I use my skills
and talents to remove barriers. Haben greeting audience at the podium Good morning. Haben and her guide
dog standing on steps I’m a woman. I’m a person of color. I’m the daughter of
refugees and I’m deafblind. Text: Harvard Laws first deaf,
blind graduate disrupting disability rights Haben talking to camera As a deaf blind person in a sighted
hearing world, I struggled to find a system that works well for
me to communicate with people. Text: Haben developed her
own communication system Haben reading braille Text: She uses a wireless keyboard
and BrailleNote computer designed by Humanware I discovered that if I connect a
braille computer with a keyboard, I can easily connect with people. Reporter laughs while
talking to Haben Most people don’t know sign language,
but know how to type Haben reading braille Person typing As people are speaking, I’m reading
their words on braille through my fingers. Haben on keyboard reading braille Over the years I’ve heard of other
deaf blind people also using the system. Text: Haben also travels
with her guide dog. Mylo sitting beside Haben With me is a small German shepherd. His name is Mylo. He was trained at The Seeing
Eye in Morristown, New Jersey. It’s like the “Harvard”
of guide dog schools. And now he travels the world with me. Mylo and Haben walking in Paris, France,
with L’Arc de Triomphe in front of them Sometimes people wonder why would
a blind person travel? Haben scaling a wall at
the City Museum in St. Louis, Missouri There’s so much to feel
and experience and taste. Haben eating on onigiri Haben partner dancing at a salsa club I love partner dancing. I can’t hear the beat or see the
other dancers, but I can feel the beat through the hands and shoulders of
the people I’m dancing with. When I went to Hawaii, I went
surfing in the wonderful warm water. Haben riding a wave
in Waikiki, Hawaii I reached out to several surf schools
and they told me we’ve never heard of a deaf blind surfer. And then I found one surf school that
said, let’s find a way, let’s figure it out. The instructor
surfed side by side. Disability is rarely the problem. The problem is often
society creating arbitrary barriers. And we all need to work
together to remove those barriers. Text: Haben is also
an aspiring comedian. She attends classes at Faceoff Unlimited
in Astoria, Queens in New York City Haben laughing with
the improv group I have been thinking about taking
improper workshops for a long time. Humor is a powerful tool
to help people feel comfortable. Text: The comedy company created a
special class after reading that Haben was turned away in her
search for inclusive improv Haben interacting with
her improv group As a person with a disability, I
can help a non-disabled person relax. Haben rehearsing with
her improv group We’re more likely to connect and
get past ableism and stereotypes. Haben’s braille typist, Halley,
typing to Haben Text: Haben also has assistance from her
braille typist so she knows what each person is saying
Arrow pointing to Halley Haben’s improv partner speaks I know there’s a very large
contract you have to sign. I didn’t read it. Haben talking to her improv partner I’m still thinking about the fact
that you didn’t read the contract. Crowd laughs Text: Haben finished
Harvard Law in 2013. She is the first and only
deafblind graduate from Harvard Law. Photo: Haben with her parents
on graduation day at Harvard My parents had high expectations for me
and that taught me to also have high expectations for myself. I decided to become an attorney
and then I was in college. Haben walking with Halley and
Riverside Country School staff into auditorium. I noticed that when I use the
Americans with Disabilities Act to remove barriers, it changed the whole culture
and I wanted to continue doing that. Auditorium filling with
students in bleachers I can’t let fear control my life, I’m
going to instead focus on what I can do. Haben talking to audience Sign language is a
form of innovation. I was told that if I wanted to get a
job as an attorney, I needed to go to the best school possible, so I applied
to Harvard, even though I thought I probably wouldn’t get in. It was worth a shot just to try. Students in auditorium clapping I learned that I got
in and I was thrilled. Haben showing her keyboard
to the auditorium Now I travel around the world
teaching organizations to invest in accessibility. Haben shakes a student’s hand Text: Haben is an advocate
for accessibility in technological advances The majority of apps
are not accessible. Haben typing on her keyboard We keep asking engineers, developers
design with access in mind. Haben texting her friend Gordon “Reply button” Because it drives innovation, drives revenue and
benefits all of us in the long run. Text: “Don’t call me inspirational” Haben skiing with guide People with disabilities get called
“inspirational” all the time, President Obama giving Haben a
hug in the White House My response is, what are
you inspired to do? Allow that emotion to drive change. Disability is not
the biggest barrier. The biggest barrier is people telling
me “you can’t do something.” Haben speaking at
the president’s address Ask people and hold them accountable. Allow me to share a story. Panoramic portrait shot of Haben All of my success shows what
is possible when we create inclusive communities and give kids with disabilities
an opportunity from the start. Inclusion is a choice. CNBC Make It end credits

53 thoughts on “How Haben Girma Became Harvard Law School’s First Deafblind Grad

  1. Yes, This is great content representation of individual with disabilities empowerment. Could this be a series? People with processing speed/ learning disabilities need representation too. Thanks 🙏🏻

  2. What an asshole! That comment is for the thumbs down, how can the success of another person bother you that bad?

  3. Good for her, most people I see in the comments leave negative thoughts and have bad outlooks on life not realizing how good they actually have it.

  4. How can she talk so well? I assumed since she can’t hear she doesn’t know what she’s saying because she can’t hear. EDIT: speech therapy might be the answer! I'm not trying to be negative, my experience with deaf people have been that they can't talk this well and I assumed it wasn't possibility or they would've done it

  5. I appreciate that Haben made a system to communicate, as a deaf & blind individual. She is disrupting the norms .
    She didn’t allow fear to control her life. 😊❤️👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼.

  6. I guess you could say that she literally feels the world as she travels. I wonder what city feels the best to her.

  7. This is amazing. I'm surprised without the ability to hear how she knows how to pronounce words? I thought deaf people struggle with speech because they have no reference.

  8. "Disability is rarely the problem, instead its society creating arbitrary boundries."

    100% wrong. Disabilities, are actually a huge problem/inconvenience. Do we need to do more as a soceity to embrace those individuals with special needs? Sure, but don't say your disability is no big deal when everyone has to interact with you in unique, special ways…

  9. Wow. Although she does not want to be looked at as an inspiration, she most definitely is!! I am so proud of her,and I don't know her Most people let fear take over their passions. Enjoy your blessings, Haben! <3

  10. More videos should be like this then. They may cost more and may be more labor intensive but there should be a channel with videos just like this so there's an option.

  11. "Disability is RARELY the problem. The problem is often society creating arbitrary barriers and we all need to work together to remove those barriers." -Haben

    I couldn't agree more with this assessment. It's similar to my experience as an autistic adult whose been bending the world around me for years.

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