SCL Sir Brian Neill Lecture: “Disability & Innovation: The Universal Benefits of Inclusive Design” to be given by Haben Girma – Tuesday 26 November 2019, London

When: 26/11/2019

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Haben Girma is the first Deafblind graduate of Harvard Law School

Date: Tuesday 26 November 2019
Time: 6.30 pm - 7.30 pm (Registration from 5.45 pm; drinks reception after the event at 7.30 pm)
Venue: Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), Savoy Place, London, WC2R 0BL. Map

It is intended that any profits from this event will be used to establish an SCL bursary to assist a person with disabilities attend law school.

Professor Richard Susskind OBE
, SCL President

Katherine (Katia) Ramo
, Associate in Technology, Media, IP & Competition, CMS

Haben Girma
, Disability Rights Lawyer, Author, Speaker

Vote of thanks
Mark O'Conor
, SCL Chair, Partner, DLA Piper UK LLP

Sponsored by

DLA Piper (UK) LLP

Reed Smith LLP
Pinsent Masons
Twenty Essex

Osborne Clarke

Haben Girma, Disability Rights Lawyer, Author, Speaker

“Disability & Innovation: The Universal Benefits of Inclusive Design”  
The first Deafblind person to graduate from Harvard Law School, Haben Girma advocates for equal opportunities for people with disabilities. President Obama named her a White House Champion of Change. She received the Helen Keller Achievement Award, and a spot on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list. President Bill Clinton and Chancellor Angela Merkel have also honoured Haben. Haben believes disability is an opportunity for innovation. She travels the world teaching the benefits of choosing inclusion. In August she published her first book, Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law. 

“I’m deeply honored to give the Sir Brian Neill Lecture this year. Thank you, SCL, for this wonderful opportunity to share my disability justice work with your community." Haben Girma

This will be the first time that Haben has spoken in the UK and SCL is honoured to be hosting this event.

Live subtitles will be shown throughout the lecture.

"I am delighted that Haben is giving this year’s SCL Sir Brian Neill Lecture. Her perspective is unique and she speaks with conviction and great humour. This is a treat for SCL" - Professor Richard Susskind OBE, SCL President

“This event is highly recommended. I had the pleasure of attending a talk by Haben Girma at Clio conference in New Orleans a couple of years ago and it was a masterclass in public speaking. Witty, striking and inspiring”. Elizabeth Fitzgerald, Principal, Fitzgerald Tech Law

Katherine (Katia) Ramo
, Associate in Technology, Media, IP & Competition, CMS
Katherine advises on corporate M&A, commercial and regulatory matters to a diverse global clients. She champions diversity across every channel, leading diversity networks, mentoring, writing and speaking at events. She is called upon both internally and externally by clients and diversity organisations, and by the UN and regulatory bodies, to provide advice regarding diversity issues, particularly surrounding gender and disability. Katherine is the Founder and Chair of CMS Enable Disability & Wellbeing Network and is an active member of CMS Women in Business, BAME and an ally to LGBT+ Networks.

She has given keynote speeches on International Women’s Day, addressing women across the organisation regarding her journey and promoting gender diversity. Katherine introduced monthly mindfulness sessions to combat stress at her firm, and participated in the Lord Mayor’s Appeal campaign, ‘This is Me’, with her Guide Dog for the Blind, to destigmatise mental health as part of Mental Health Awareness Week. In her international development career, Katherine championed women’s career development in the projects she undertook domestically and globally. Externally, Katherine spoke on diversity and intersectionality at the Women in Law Summit in May 2019, receiving a standing ovation. She was also a panel speaker at The Law Society International Symposium: The power of gender equality to transform the business of law in June 2019. She has participated in the First 100 Years Project, celebrating 100 years of Women in Law, recorded a podcast for the Law Society’s inspirational women series, a short film for the Solicitors Regulation Authority on ‘Why a disability inclusive workplace makes a difference’ , and is a regular speaker at diversity and inclusion events.

Katherine is listed in the top global 30 Financial Times Women in Business HERoes and Future Female Leader 2018. Winner of the Times' & Sunday Times Lynne Freeman Law Award of WeAreTheCity Rising Star Award 2019, and listed as #7 on the global Yahoo Finance Women in Business HERoes and Future Female Leaders 2019. She is currently completing a PhD in international law. She became disabled as an adult. She was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder called Stickler Syndrome Type II. It causes vision and hearing loss and affects the joints. This was in addition to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a result of a civilian tour of duty in Afghanistan.

The SCL Annual Lecture
honours the memory of Rt Hon Sir Brian Neill PC, a former President of SCL and pre-eminent pioneer of court technology. Past SCL lectures have been given by Lawrence Lessig, Sir Nigel Shadbolt, Dame Wendy Hall, The Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, Professor Richard Susskind OBE FRSE and most recently Shannon Salter, Chair of the Civil Resolution Tribunal in Canada.

Haben Girma - Awards and recognition 

  • 2013 – Recognized by the Obama administration as a Champion of Change 
  • 2016 – Forbes 30 Under 30, Law & Policy 
  • 2016 – Top 30 Thinkers Under 30, Pacific Standard 

What People Say About Haben Girma
Thank you so much, Haben for working to make sure that students with disabilities get a world-class education, just like you have. 
President Barack Obama

She got out of Harvard, and you know what she’s doing? She is an advocate for opportunities for people with disabilities. Because in fact they have enormous ability, and all over the world that ability is going untapped, diminishing their lives and the rest of ours as well. 
President Bill Clinton

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Administration notes:
: The cost of attendance at the Lecture is £35 + VAT (£42) and is open to all.

Accessibility during the lecture: Live subtitles will be shown throughout the lecture.

Accessibility at the venue
: The IET is dedicated to offering the highest possible levels of accessibility. The IET's accessibility guide is available to download here. If you have any additional accessibility requirements when attending the lecture, please contact the SCL team at

A significant concession on the attendance fee is available for students and academics in full-time education and those on a low income. Please note that you cannot book concessionary places online. To apply for a concessionary place and request an invoice please email

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SCL is dedicated to providing a harassment-free conference experience for everyone, regardless of gender, gender identity and expression, age, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, ethnicity, religion (or lack thereof), or technology choices. We do not tolerate harassment of participants in any form. Sexual language and imagery is not appropriate at the event or on Twitter and other online media. Participants violating these rules may be asked to leave the event at the discretion of the organisers. 

SCL Diversity Statement

It may be necessary for reasons beyond the control of SCL to change the content/timing of the programme and/or speakers.

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