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ShaperTalk on Accessibility & Advocacy with Best-Selling Author Haben Girma

SF Global Shapers hosted best-selling author Haben Girma at a ShaperTalk on Wednesday, 12/11, and we wanted to share key takeaways from the event:

  • Haben said she had a great undergraduate experience at Lewis & Clark College, but she did have a significant issue with the accessibility of the college’s cafeteria. It didn’t have Braille signs, so she never knew what she was eating until it was in her mouth.
  • Haben described feeling guilty when she found herself complaining that her college’s cafeteria didn’t have Braille signs because she knew her parents had it much harder growing up in Africa, but she realized that if she could fix the issue (which she did), it would make things better for other students. Reflecting on this experience, she urged people not to participate in the “oppression Olympics”. Just because there are people out there who have it worse doesn’t mean what you’re experiencing isn’t worth fixing. That kind of attitude discourages positive change and keeps bad institutions in place.
  • Haben applied for top law schools based on advice from her undergrad academic advisor because she knew many law school graduates had trouble finding work, and she knew it would be even tougher for her. Haben acknowledged that Harvard was exclusionary for a lot of its history, but she said the school did a lot to ensure she was in a position to succeed while she was there.
  • Haben described her experience working on a lawsuit against Scribd and told us about a recent negative experience with AirBnB. She said that many technology companies build products that aren’t accessible for people with disabilities, and she said that the only way to fix this is to ensure that these companies hire people with disabilities to ensure their perspectives are understood and incorporated into the products they build.

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