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July 2, 2024 10 mins

Today we highlight the work of disability justice writer, speaker and activist Haben Girma.

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Speaker 1 (00:05):
Hey, this is Annie and Samantha and welcome to Steffone.
Never told you are pressure. iHeart Radio.

Speaker 2 (00:18):
And y'all as you heard yesterday obviously when we were
doing our Monday Mini and Annie was like, hey, July,
that's Disability Pride Month. So of course we wanted to
jump in to celebrate activists who've been working not only
in disability justice, but so much more because you know,
it's always intersectional here and today we're starting off with activist, lawyer, writer, speaker,

(00:40):
and so many other titles have been Garma and Garma
is a Harvard Law School graduate, born and raised in
the San Francisco Bay area and is a human rights lawyer.
And here's a bit from her website. The first Deathline
person to graduate from Harvard Law School ha been Germa
is a human rights lawyer advancing disability justice. President Obama

(01:02):
named her a White House Championship Change, and the World
Health Organization appointed her Commissioner of Social Connection.

Speaker 1 (01:09):
And in the site, she talks about why she decided
to be a disability rights lawyer. Quote. As a deafblind
student in college, I witnessed advocates using the Americans with
Disabilities Act ADA to change social attitudes. The National Federation
of the Blind regularly referenced the ADA when explaining to
technology developers why designing access for people with disabilities is

(01:32):
a necessity. I heard how the National Association of the
Deaf used the ADA to increase close captioning online, and
how disability rights advocates used the ADA to compel Target's
tech team to make Target dot Com accessible to blind Americans.
Impressed by the success of these advocates, I felt inspired
to join them. Back then and even now, I encountered

(01:54):
many barriers in the digital world, not because of my disability,
but because of attitude among tech developers that trivialize access
for disabled people.

Speaker 2 (02:05):
Yeah. We've talked about that previously on different episodes, about
the fact that it could be easy, but they don't
think it through and trivialize the needs. So just as
a kind of asterisk there. Germa lost her sight in
hearing as a young child and currently retains one percent
of her site. Growing up, she did have access to

(02:25):
technology such as a digital braille device, but she talked
about the fact her brother, who was also deaf blind,
did not because they did not live in the US
at the time, and so it was kind of a
conversation about the differences and the privileges she was able
to have in the US. Later, she would go on
to successfully graduate from Lewis and Clark College, graduating magna

(02:46):
cum laud, going on to Harvard Law, obtaining her Juris
Doctorate jd. And after receiving her degree, Garma joined the
Disability Rights Advocates or DRA, representing people with disabilities as
a staff law. Since she started her work as a
human rights lawyer and justice advocate, Garma has been very
vocal in talking about the importance of countering ablest attitudes

(03:09):
and inaccessibility. Here's a quote from a twenty twenty three
Forbes article titled Disability Sparks Innovation Insights from deaf, blind
human rights lawyer Hobin Garma. During her powerful speech, Hobbin
shared that the barriers she has encountered as a disabled
person have been due not to her disability, but rather ableism,
a system of beliefs and practices that treat disabled peoples

(03:31):
as inferior to non disabled people. The daughter of refugees
and a black disabled woman, Hobbin says she's built her
path to success, which she documents in her best selling
memoir Hobbin, the deaf blind woman who conquered Harvard Law
on the belief that inclusion is a choice.

Speaker 1 (03:47):
And the article continues as someone who was named a
White House Champions have changed by President Obama, appeared on
Forbes's thirty Under thirty list, has learned to dance, ski, climb,
and surf, and is an accomplished law and disability rights advocate.
Hobbin's disability hasn't heeled her back, but ableism, she said,
whether intentional or unintentional, creates barriers for people in the

(04:10):
disabled community every day, often preventing them from full inclusion
in the workplace, being supported to achieve their potential and
contribute their skills, as well as being able to fully
participate in other aspects of their lives and society. We
need people to recognize that disabled people are talented, said
Hobbin during her remarks at the forum, and many organizations

(04:32):
disabled people are not represented, or if disabled people are represented,
is often just white disabled experiences. Diversity is multi layered.
We need all our different experiences represented. Every single one
of us has something to bring to the organization right.

Speaker 2 (04:50):
And on her website, she includes why organizations need to
invest in accessibility. As she writes, prioritizing inclusion helps your organization.
Disabled people are one of the are just historically underrepresented groups,
numbering over one billion worldwide. Reaching a group of this
scale creates value for everyone. Organizations that prioritize accessibility benefit

(05:10):
by gaining access to much larger audience, improving the experience
of both disabled and non disabled people, and facilitating further innovation.
Organizations also have legal obligations to ensure access for disabled people.
But with that, yes, we do need to come back
to the fact that the new Supreme Court ruling has
really messed this up. So of course, yes, we will

(05:33):
come back and have a deeper conversation because we don't
know about this legal obligations anymore. But we'll just pause
on that and come back later and cry about it later.
And from the Forbes article, they write when thinking about accessibility,
Hobbins shared her belief that organizations need to consider not
just their employees, but they're also their clients, customers, and
a larger population. For instance, she emphasized how important it

(05:56):
is to make technology more accessible. Sometimes when I think
about accessible, people think, oh, we'll build a separate website
or disabled people. Separate is never equal. It might start
out with good intentions, but down the line, the separate
app or website or disabled people ends up with fewer updates,
fewer resources, and that's not equal. So what we want
is one app, one website, or one organization that's accessible

(06:18):
to everyone. And when you are designing digital services, the
web content accessibility guidelines are a great tool.

Speaker 1 (06:34):
She continues to educate companies, organizations, and the general community
about the importance of understanding language and wording, as well
as accessibility when it comes to being inclusive. From her website,
she advises quote, challenge yourself to create a disability story
without using the word inspiration. The overuse of the word,
especially for the most trivial things, has dulled its meaning.

(06:57):
People sometimes even use the word as a disguise for
for example, You've inspired me to stop complaining about my problems,
because I should feel grateful I don't have yours. Messages
that perpetuate us versus them hierarchies contribute to marginalization. Engage
audiences by moving beyond the inspiration cliche.

Speaker 2 (07:18):
That very cringe and She continues on her website giving
advice about harmful messages people should avoid including things like
non disabled people should feel grateful they don't have disabilities.
This perpetuates hierarchies of us versus them, as we talked
about previously, and continuing the marginalization of disabled people. And

(07:39):
it goes on with another example of what not to use.
Successful disabled people overcome their disabilities when the media portrays
the problem as the disability societies not encouraged to change.
The biggest barriers exist not in the person, but in
the physical, social, and digital environment. Disable people and the
communities succeed and the community decides to dismantle digital, attitudinal,

(08:03):
and physical barriers.

Speaker 1 (08:05):
And advice on messages that should be included like we
respected admire disabled leaders just as we respect and admire
our non disabled leaders. We're all interdependent and go further
when we support each other.

Speaker 2 (08:19):
And of course, she has received many accolades for her work,
including being named a Championship Change by the Obama administration,
being one of Forbes thirty Under thirty, awarded the Helen
Keller Achievement Award, and she, as we said earlier, has
written and published a memoir titled Hubbin, The Deaf Blind
Woman who Conquered Harvard Law obviously being noted as the

(08:43):
first to do that. It's amazing and apparently it's a bestseller.
We need to put this on our list soon of
our many memoirs that we need to read.

Speaker 1 (08:51):
Yes, yes we should, and we've talked about this before,
but this is something we've seen in our line of
work where we've been pushing for transcripts. There has been
some movement on that, but listeners, let us know because
I think that's really important and that's been something for

(09:11):
me that I have really wanted and I hope that
we're booming in the right direction. But Robin is right,
that was like not a priority because it's always the
disability is a bit lower of a priority, and I

(09:35):
don't think it should be that way. So well, as always,
if you have any thoughts about this or any suggestions,
please let us know. You can email us at Steffandi
your Mom stuff at iHeartMedia dot com. You can find
us on Twitter at Monster podcast, or on Instagram and
TikTok at stuff When I never told you. We're also
on YouTube. We have a tea public store. We have

(09:57):
a book you can get wherever you get your book. Thanks,
as always to your super producer Christina or executive producer
Maya and our contributor Joey.

Speaker 2 (10:04):
Thank you and we're so sorry, especially me. Person that
you're the best.

Speaker 1 (10:09):
We love that. Thank you and thank you for listening.
Someone Ever Told You is a production of iHeart Radio.
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