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Understood commemorates 30th ADA anniversary with Haben Girma


This July marks the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a monumental civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places. 

Understood is recognizing the ADA’s anniversary with internal and external initiatives to spark meaningful conversations about ableism and ways we can all help to improve the lives of people with disabilities. 

This month, Haben Girma, a disability rights lawyer, advocate, and the first Deafblind person to graduate from Harvard Law, connected with the Understood team for an engaging presentation titled, “Difference Drives Innovation & Disability Inclusion Benefits All of Us”. 

“The dominant story frames disability as a burden on society. It’s up to all of us to redefine what disability means,” said Girma. “The definition I’ve come up with is disability is an opportunity for innovation.” 

She went on to illustrate her own innovative approaches to navigating spaces, from salsa dancing to sign language to surfing in Santa Cruz, Calif.. Through highlighting “hidden stories” of innovations created by people with disabilities, Girma underscored how accessible design benefits people both with and without disabilities.

Girma also shared her experience of learning how to self-advocate, the role teachers play in removing barriers for people with disabilities, and the intersection of ableism, racism and sexism. 

“There’s a myth that there’s two kinds of people dependent and independent. Not true. All of us are interdependent,” said Girma. 

While many of us have all benefited from the ADA, there is still much work to be done to ensure people with all types of disabilities and differences have the opportunity to thrive at home, at school, and in life. We hope everyone joins us in our mission to shape the world for difference.

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