National Public Radio
JULY 31, 2015
To Haben Girma’s grandmother, back in East Africa, it “seemed like magic.” Her granddaughter, born deaf and blind, is a graduate of Harvard Law School and works as a civil rights attorney.
It’s easy to understand why the grandmother feels that way. Years before, she had tried to find a school in Eritrea for Girma’s older brother, who was also born deaf and blind. She was turned away. There were schools for blind children and schools for deaf children. But no school would teach a child who was deaf-blind (that’s the preferred terminology in the disability community). Girma describes that brother as “brilliant.”
Girma told the story last week at the White House, when she introduced President Obama during a ceremony to mark the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
By the time Girma was born in 1988, six years younger than her brother, her mother had made a refugee’s journey from Eritrea to the United States. And in California, a deaf-blind girl like Girma had a legal right to an education.
In public schools in Oakland, she was educated alongside other students, leaving her mainstream classes for an hour a day to learn Braille.