Five things you need to know about the deaf-blind Eritrean who made history in Harvard

Today, Haben Girma, an Eritrean-American who was the first deaf and blind student to graduate from Harvard Law School is now one of the most talked about African women. Thinking beyond her personal ability and colour, Haben moved on to ensure that people with disabilities like hers can have better access to the same technology that helped her achieve her dream of becoming an attorney. She has proven that disability is not a barrier to achieving academic excellence.

Here are five things you need to know about Haben Girma 

1. Haben Girma is 27-year old. She was born in California after her mother fled Eritrea in the early 1980s due to the War of Independence which was still ravaging the country at the time.

2. Unlike her elder brother, who is also deaf and blind, Girma was able to benefit from accessible technology for the disabled in the United States.

3. She is an advocate for the civil rights of persons with disabilities. She is a celebrated speaker and gave the introductory remarks for the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) at the White House. She was also a guest speaker at the TEDxBaltimore event in 2014.

4. Despite getting accepted into Harvard Law School, she was unaware of how she would survive and the school was also sceptical about how a deaf-blind student would fare.

5. Haben has taken her advocacy around the world. She has talked about technology and attitudes toward disabilities during her travels to China, Costa Rica and Ethiopia.

Watch her talk at Google, which she called “Bringing Helen Keller to Silicon Valley: Designing Technology with Accessibility in Mind” below. In the video she talks about what can be done to make information and technology more accessible for people with disability.

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