Earlier today I was clicking around my Apple TV and decided to downloaded the platform’s WWDC app. WWDC is an acronym that refers to the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference. It takes place annually and this year it was June 13-17 in San Francisco.
The conference is typically used to show off and debut new software and technologies for developers. Most consumers like me recognize them for the dates that a new Mac or iPhone may be released, but I learned this year that it is legitimately a conference where the developers will go to different sessions throughout the day, learn different things, hear from different speakers, etc. This year, Apple really impressed me.
If you know anything about me, you know I really value Apple. Not just in the traditional “Apple-obsessed” way, but because they are a company that shares many of the same values that I do when it comes to inclusivity and accessibility.
Enter Haben Girma.
She is one of the most fascinating people I have never met. First things first, she’s an activist and a damn good one at that. She’s a smart, strong, and clearly very educated woman. I stumbled upon her lecture from WWDC on the app and was captivated watching it the entire time. It was called “Disability and Innovation: The Universal Benefits of Accessible Design.” If you’ve ever sat it in on a HESONWHEELS presentation, you’ve heard me harp endlessly on how making something accessible to 1 person can help make it accessible to so many more people, without that even necessarily being the intent. You can watch Haben’s presentation here.
Now, if you watched that, you caught another reasonably important detail – she is deaf-blind. Haben is the first deaf-blind person to graduate from Harvard Law School and continues to advocate in so many ways. She’s become a White House Champion of Change, and continues to work toward helping make platforms more accessible for folks with all kinds of disabilities, including those like her who can’t see or hear well. Isn’t that fascinating?
I mean, Imagine having two of your biggest senses taken away from you and not only living, not only thriving, but working and advocating on behalf of yourself, others, and the world. I don’t like to refer to people as an “inspiration” just because they have overcome their disability in some way – because I truly believe that any of us would do the same if we were presented such an obstacle. But Haben is damn near close to it, I guess. Becuase she doesn’t just live. She thrives, times a million. And, yeah, it does inspire me.
Professionally, she works as a civil rights attorney now. You can catch her TED talk below.