February is one of my personal favorite months because I love LOVE in all its forms. I’m also a fan of all the standard Valentine’s Day fare – chocolate, champagne, and flowers. So, if you need me this month I’ll be doing heart-shaped crafts and sending out my Valentines.
Here at KIT, we are in the final few days of our 21-Day Race Equity Habit Building Challenge. As we complete the Challenge, we are beginning our celebration of Black History Month by shining the KIT spotlight on Black disabled people whose work we admire. I’m going first, and then every Friday this month we’ll have a different feature on the KIT blog, submitted by one of our KIT team members.
I grabbed the spotlight first because I was excited to highlight disability rights activist Haben Girma. Haben is an African American first-generation immigrant whose father is from Ethiopia and mother is from Eritrea. She is the first Deafblind person to graduate from Harvard Law School. In 2015, Haben introduced President Obama at the celebration of the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Click here see the YouTube video of her speech.
As a lawyer, Haben represented the National Federation of the Blind in a lawsuit against the digital library service called Scribd, imploring them to make their website and apps accessible to blind readers. Haben and her team won this suit and Scribd agreed to make their digital library accessible. That’s worthy of the spotlight right there!
But, what I love about Haben is the way she talks about inclusion. The first time I heard her speak, she said (and I am paraphrasing, but these words are permanently stamped on my heart, so they are close), “People think inclusion is for other people. But it’s not. Inclusion is for you. It’s for your children, your family, your friends.” Put Haben’s name in the search bar on YouTube and you’ll find endless opportunities to witness her wisdom. You will also see her using an innovative communication device that she basically invented. A big part of her platform is making technology more accessible. She also cares a lot about kids and education, which is another reason I am a fan.
You may remember me gushing about Haben’s memoir, Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law. The photo above is from 2019, when I was lucky enough to see her speak at one of my favorite indie bookstores, Book Passage in San Francisco. Haben is smart, charming, and very funny. She has a very warm and inclusive way of bringing everyone into the disability experience.
If you want to follow Haben’s activism, here is where you can find her online:
Have I mentioned how much I love her book? 🙂