Haben Girma Just Became The First Deafblind Graduate Of Harvard Law School But Doesn’t See Herself As ‘Inspiring’

Living with disabilities can be difficult but oftentimes the greatest difficulty comes from the limitations put on disabled people by their abled counterparts. Often, being disabled just means finding another way to do things; it doesn’t mean not being able to do these things at all. Disabled people don’t need to meet the abled world’s expectations because they are able to meet the world with their own.

This is something that disability lawyer Haben Girma wants everyone to understand about disability. Born deaf and blind, Girma has spent her life breaking boundaries, including becoming the first DeafBlind person to graduate from Harvard Law School.

Now, the advocate is sharing her amazing journey in the pages of a brand new book.

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Besides graduating from Harvard in 2013, the advocate has scaled glaciers, surfed the gnarliest of waves and met with president Barack Obama. All these accomplishments would be impressive for an abled bodied person but Girma’s disability adds an extra layer to this story. The expectation is that — because she is DeafBlind — these achievements should be impossible.

However, those limitations put on her because of her disability are not something she acknowledges. This is what she writes about in her newly released memoir, “Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law.” The book is now available in physical form and in an accessible audiobook.

“I hope people can move away from seeing people with disabilities as incompetent,” Haben shared in an interview with PEOPLE. “If we remove barriers, we can have great inclusion.”

It’s because of these imposed barriers and limitations that Girma dislikes the notion of being called “inspiring.”

Twitter / @HabenGirma

In “Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law,” the lawyer writes about her grievances with this concept. Too often, she says, inspiration is mistaken for pity. What she means by this is that her accomplishments should be appreciated because they are great, not because of her disability. The same could be said for any disabled person.

“Some people use it as a disguise for pity,” she writes. “They’ll say, ‘You’re so inspiring,’ but in their mind, they’re thinking, ‘Thank God I don’t have your problems.’ ”

Often, “inspiration porn” is spread across social media and it helps to explain why Girma dislikes being labeled as inspirational.

Twitter / @BCHFacultyDev

In these posts, disabled people are usually shown doing average things. For example, when a child first walks with its prosthesis or a disabled person participates in a sport. What is supposed to make it remarkable is the person’s disability.

However, if you take the disability away and view the circumstance with an able-bodied person instead, there is no longer the element of “inspiration.” Disabled people like Girma don’t want to be seen as an inspiration solely because of their disability. They want to be acknowledged for their actual abilities, just like anyone else does.

It’s with this in mind that Girma travels the world speaking about disability rights.

Twitter / @NYAIL

Accessibility is the main focus that the advocate is working on right now. Girma herself uses a guide dog named Mylo to access the world around her. In order to communicate, the lawyer uses a dual keyboard system she devised to convert type to Braille text. Finding solutions for everyday accessibility is something that all disabled people have to do and that is what Girma wants to make easier and more understood.

Internet accessibility has especially gained Girma’s attention and advocacy. In 2014, the lawyer helped to win a landmark case against a site that failed to provide access to blind readers. It is through this lawsuit that other internet accessibility cases will be able to site precedent in the future, making the world more accessible to those with visual disabilities.

“People with disabilities already face so many barriers in the physical world,” she explained to PEOPLE. “There’s no reason to have barriers in the digital world when we have the power to convert those 1s and 0s into engaging applications that everyone can use.”

Ultimately, it’s Girma’s goal that disabled people are able to live their lives in ways that are as fulfilling and accessible as possible.

Twitter / @HabenGirma

“My dream world is a place where people with all types of disabilities are included,” Girma confessed to PEOPLE. “There is so much work to be done.”

With the help of advocates like Girma, disabled people will be able to live on their own terms in a world that is not limited by what others think they are able to do. That’s the kind of world we should all reach for.

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A Judge Has Ruled That The University of California System Can No Longer Use SAT And ACT Tests For Admissions And It’s A Huge Win For The Underprivileged

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A Judge Has Ruled That The University of California System Can No Longer Use SAT And ACT Tests For Admissions And It’s A Huge Win For The Underprivileged

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Advocates against the use of standardized tests for college admissions have long argued that the use of such exams sets back students from underprivileged backgrounds and those who have disabilities. Aware of the leg up it gives to privileged and non-disabled students an advantage in the admittance process, they’ve rallied for schools to end such practices.

And it looks like they’ve just won their argument.

A judge has ruled that the University of California system can no longer use ACT and SAT tests as part of their admissions process.

Brad Seligman is the Alameda County Superior Court Judge who issued the preliminary injunction in the case of Kawika Smith v. Regents of the University of California on Tuesday. The plaintiffs in Kawika Smith v. Regents of the University of California include five students and six organizations College Access Plan, Little Manila Rising, Dolores Huerta Foundation, College Seekers, Chinese for Affirmative Action, and Community Coalition.

In his decision, Judge Seligman underlined that the UC system’s “test-optional” policy on UC campuses has long given privileged and non-disabled students a chance at a “second look” in the admissions process. According to Seligman, this “second look” denies such opportunities to students who are unable to access the tests.

The decision is a major victory for students with disabilities and from underprivileged backgrounds.

News of the decision comes on the heels of the university system’s ruling to waive the standardized testing requirements until 2024.

In May, a news release asserted that if a new form of a standardized test had not been developed by 2025, the system would have to put an end to the testing requirement for California students. On Monday, the judge’s ruling took things further by banning the consideration of scores from students who submit them all together.

“The current COVID 19 pandemic has resulted in restrictions in the availability of test sites,” Seligman wrote in his ruling. “While test-taking opportunities for all students have been limited, for persons with disabilities, the ability to obtain accommodations or even to locate suitable test locations for the test is ‘almost nil.'”

A spokesperson for the University of California said the university “respectfully disagrees with the Court’s ruling.”

“An injunction may interfere with the University’s efforts to implement an appropriate and comprehensive admissions policies and its ability to attract and enroll students of diverse backgrounds and experiences,” the spokesperson said. According to the spokesperson, the UC system is considering further legal action in the case. The system said that its testing has allowed for an increase in admission of low-income and first-generation-to-college-students for the fall of 2020.

With UC being the largest university system in the country, Seligman’s ruling is a massive deal. Students and advocates have long fought for the elimination of these standardized tests arguing that they do not accurately reflect a student’s academic ability.

“Research has repeatedly proved that students from wealthy families score higher on the SAT and ACT, compared to students from low-income families,” reports CNN. It’s important to note that the analysis by Inside Higher Ed revealed that the “lowest average scores for each part of the SAT came from students with less than $20,000 in family income. The highest scores came from those with more than $200,000 in family income.”

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FIERCE Maestras Are Giving Newbie Teachers Career Advice And It’s Basically The Sweetest Thing


FIERCE Maestras Are Giving Newbie Teachers Career Advice And It’s Basically The Sweetest Thing

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No matter what experiences you’ve had as a student, hopefully you have had at least a handful of teachers who left good impressions on you. As a whole class of students from this year graduate and become teachers themselves, we wanted to ask veteran maestras for advice on how to continue the cycle of positivity.

In a recent post to our Instagram page we asked all our FIERCE maestras, what advice do they have for a new teacher and boy did they deliver!

Check out the replies below!

Stay nourished.

“Advice: eat during your break girl and practice self-care.” – la_misses_m

Take it easy.

“Take it one day at a time. At times you will doubt yourself but push through the all the challenges. Always remember why you are there, which is to teach your students. You got this!! Good luck!!” – erixcii

Make sure you’re feeding your relationships.

“Focus on relationships above everything. Relationships with your students and their families!”- allirousey

Don’t forget to build relationships with your students.

“Self-care and building relationships with your students and families!!” – jazzyfue

And definitely remember to trust yourself.

“I’m an SLP, but I would tell her to trust herself!! You got this! You know your kids and you talents!” – maryoso_moli

Self-care Sundays shall your temple.

“Practice Self-care and build relationships with students. Remember to always be kind to the janitors/grounds keepers/ clerical staff (they make our jobs easier). Consider keeping a scrap book or journal of sweet notes and emails that you can look through on the tough days. Always teach with your heart and with a growth mindset; never get complacent because our profession is ever changing and we will likely never have the exact same group of kiddos again. Keep learning from your coworkers (what to do and what not to do), from your students, insta teachers, workshops, and personal experience (make notes to yourself in your planner for next year). Being organized has saved me, even on the most hectic days. Always have a back up lesson available. Empathy is key! Take. Days. Off. I know lesson plans are time consuming, but your mental health is worth prioritizing.” – cmirene

Know it gets better over time.

“The first year may be hard, but it gets better and better every year.”- yulzzzz5

Don’t be a Yes Ma’am.

“Advice: learn to say no. You’ll be super compelled to go more than above and beyond because it’s all for the kids and as much as I ADORE AND LOVE my students just as I am sure you will you need some you time. I started being the only teacher at school functions and being stressed about helping my high schoolers have the best time that I was drowning. Love them but love yourself too! You deserve you time.” – del_ranita

Don’t be a shrinking violet.

“Don’t shrink yourself to make your whyte colleagues feel comfortable. Connect with other teachers of color and ask for/give support. Lead with love for your students. They should always come first.”- queenurbie

Be an authentic leader.

“My one piece of advice is to invest time in getting to know your students, their stories and be your authentic self with them. Kids love knowing that their teachers are people and are just like them.” – meerehyah@educatinglittleminds 

And finally, remember ya live and learn!

“I remember I used to always want to be “perfect” for them and would fear making mistakes or letting them see me when things wouldn’t go right. When a lesson didn’t work out as planned. I learned to let that go and to let them see me make mistakes. It is okay! And it is okay to admit it. They’ll appreciate it! Teaches them that we aren’t all perfect and we all make mistakes-it’s a part of life. Teach on and be You! They’ll love every piece of you.” – su_heeey

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