Disability & Innovation: The Universal Benefits of Inclusive Design – embrace the challenge

September 11, 2019

I’ll admit that I hadn’t heard of Haben Girma before Richard Susskind brought her to my attention. Richard wrote to me and told me that he had just come back from a conference in New York where he had heard a brilliant, transformative speaker who would be the perfect candidate for this year’s SCL annual lecture – and she’s deafblind. Fascinated to know more, I found out that Haben is not only the first deafblind person to graduate from Harvard Law School, she’s also a disability rights advocate, a 2013 White House Champions of Change honouree, a keen ballroom dancer and she likes surfing (on the ocean). Clearly unencumbered by being deafblind, Haben regards her disability as an opportunity for innovation and change. She has developed a two-keyboard system so that people can communicate with her more easily and she challenges our community to use technology to communicate more inclusively and more accessibly. 

So why is Haben making her debut speech in the UK to the tech law community? Because she campaigns for the development of accessible digital services – you may be (or have clients) involved in developing this kind of technology now. But also because Haben is challenging our community to break down the barriers that exclude people with disabilities, to be more aware and inclusive – and this challenge is applicable to all.

I encourage you to come and hear Haben talk on 26 November at the IET – she will change the way you think about the people around you forever.

You may also want to join Reed Smith and DLA Piper and sponsor this event. Your support of this event will help towards the cost of holding the lecture at the IET which which sets the industry standard for accessibility and any profit will go towards the establishment of an SCL bursary to assist a person with disabilities attend law school.

Caroline Gould is Chief Executive of SCL