Girma: The Deafblind Attorney


Haben is an essential verb in English and German languages, in German, it means “to have” and it is an important word not just for its meaning but as an auxiliary verb for tenses, forget about the two languages, it’s Haben Girma whose personality and achievements for the disability community are exceptional and resembles the definition of her name.

Haben is the first deaf-blind person to graduate from Havard Law School and is currently a human rights lawyer advancing disability justice, which has earned her fame, honor, and awards from prominent people such as former President Obama, Bill Clinton, and  Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

She believes disability is an opportunity for innovation, and she teaches organizations the importance of choosing inclusion.

Haben’s journey began in Eriteria as a refugee which inspired her to learn how to navigate in a world designed for people who see and hear.

Girma’s parents often had discussions concerning the war between Eritrea and Ethiopia, mostly about advocacy, and fighting for freedom, which taught her how to advocate for her place in society as a deaf-blind person.

She started traveling from place to place teaching people the importance of an inclusive environment for persons with disabilities.

During her travels, she has been able to meet different role models with disabilities who have helped her want to do more for persons with disabilities.

An example of a situation she had to stand for persons with disabilities was at the College in Mali, where everything was okay except for the cafeteria which had the menu in print on the wall.

Haben asked the dining manager to post the menu online or in Braille or email it to her, but the manager declined simply because he had so many customers so why concentrate on one.

After carefully carrying out her research she again approached the manager and explained to him that the menu had locked out most persons with disabilities and she will take legal action if necessary.

The manager apologized and changed the menu which helped persons with disabilities in the institution, and that’s how she became an attorney for persons with disabilities.

Attorney Haben has achieved a lot so how has she been able to get this far with her disability? because a deaf-blind person has no hearing and sight abilities.

Haben’s disability is an innovative opportunity for her because to effectively communicate with people around her she developed a text-to-braille communication system.

During a conversation, the hearing person has to type what she/he wants to say on a special computer that wirelessly feeds the information to Girma’s Braille computer.

She then runs her fingers over the dots to read, and she responds through speech, which she does in a high register.

Her movements are guided by her pet dog, Mylo. she learned non-visual techniques for everything from dancing to handling different work tools.


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