A special reception was held at the White House on July 20 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. On hand to introduce President Barack Obama ’91 and Vice President Joe Biden was Harvard Law School graduate Haben Girma ’13, who is currently a Skadden Fellow at Disability Rights Advocates in Berkeley, Calif. Girma was the first deafblind student to graduate from HLS.
Harvard Law School Visiting Professor Michael Stein ’88, an internationally recognized expert on disability rights, received the inaugural Morton E. Ruderman Award in Inclusion from the Ruderman Family Foundation. The award recognizes an individual who has made an extraordinary contribution to the inclusion of people with disabilities in the Jewish world and the greater public.
As a deaf-blind student with very limited sight and hearing, Haben Girma ’13 learned that you must be a self-advocate and come up with creative solutions to the problems you face. If that fails, she says, then the law can be a strong ally.
As an enthusiastic supporter of the Special Olympics who has worked for more than two decades with Special Olympics International, Harvard Law School Professor William P. Alford welcomed the opportunity to help bring about the 2013 Special Olympics World Winter Games, held in PyeongChang, Korea earlier this year. “One of the major messages of the Special Olympics is that having a disability need not be seen as being as limiting or disqualifying as some people might assume,” says Alford, director of East Asian Legal Studies and chair of the Harvard Law School Project on Disability (HPOD).
In October, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg issued two rulings bolstering the rights of persons with psycho-social disabilities. Both cases were brought by Hungarian-Slovakian disability rights activist János Fiala-Butora LL.M. ’10, an S.J.D. candidate at Harvard Law School and an associate of the Harvard Law School Project on Disability, known as HPOD.