Haben Girma, the first deafblind person to graduate from Harvard Law School will give the 2019 Society for Computers and Law Sir Brian Neill lecture on “Disability & Innovation: The Universal Benefits of Inclusive Design” on Tuesday 26 November at the IET in London.
Haben Girma is deaf-blind. Her mother, a refugee from Eritrea, made it to the US in 1983. That move gave Haben the protections afforded by Californian disability discrimination law which led to her becoming the first deafblind graduate of Harvard Law School. Along the way she learnt that paving the way for others means making sure those rights are respected by businesses and public bodies. She has also evolved her own technology to enable her to communicate seamlessly with anyone who can use a keyboard – including, memorably, President Barack Obama.
Having spoken all over the world about the difference technology has made to her life, (including a TEDx talk with over 250k views on YouTube and Apple developer conferences), and written a best-selling book The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law, the SCL is delighted to be hosting Haben’s first talk in the UK at the Institution of Engineering & Technology on 26th November when she will deliver this year’s Sir Brian Neill Lecture.
Professor Richard Susskind OBE, President of the Society for Computers and Law (SCL), is:
“delighted that Haben is giving this year’s SCL Sir Brian Neill Lecture. Her perspective is unique and she speaks with conviction and great humour. This is a treat for SCL”
Her talk will inspire all those in the tech industry to make sure that inclusion and accessibility are at the start and heart of any project. She will urge technology designers to carry on pushing boundaries of what can be achieved, such as developing the enormous potential of haptics. Her personal, practical and often humorous take on how that positive ambition can be achieved hits home even harder when heard live, an opportunity for which Haben is grateful.
“I’m deeply honored to give the Sir Brian Neill Lecture this year. Thank you, SCL, for this wonderful opportunity to share my disability justice work with your community.” Haben Girma
Although hosted by the SCL Chair of the Trustees, Mark O’Conor is keen to emphasise that Haben’s message should be of intense interest to a much wider audience:
“The extraordinary achievements of technology over the past two decades have opened up boundless opportunities to use technology for good. Yet Haben’s message that we should put accessibility at the heart of any project needs to be repeated at every opportunity, not just to lawyers and regulators but to every business or organisation developing digital services. Giving people in the UK the chance to hear that message directly, from one of the world’s leading advocates for change, is something that a Society such as ours should do and which we are proud to support. It’s about changing mindsets, and we should all challenge ourselves to be open to that”.
The event will feature live subtitles and will be held at the IET in Savoy Place which sets the industry standard for accessibility. Any sponsorship money will be used to cover the cost of running the event and any profits from this event will be used to establish an SCL bursary to assist a person with disabilities attend law school.