Sunday, February 22, 2015

Haben Girma at the 2015 Texas Deafblind Symposium

Photo from left to right, seated: two communication assistants (one with a wireless Apple keyboard), Haben Girma with her refreshable braille display, and behind her, a standing ASL interpreter for the audience.  
CART is projected on a screen in the background.
This photo above was taken during the TX DeafBlind Symposium breakout session on advocacy with our graceful Deafblind attorney Haben Girma. Haben was the first deafblind person to graduate from Harvard.

It was fascinating to watch the relaying of information through various modes of communication including, computer to braille display, ASL interpreter, Spanish-English interpreter all with CART (real-time captioning) going on in the background. Information sent from computer to Haben's refreshable braille display included what was spoken AND facial expressions of the audience members. (I was busted!)

Also out of the frame of this photo were two teams of CDIs (Certified Deaf Interpreters) tactile interpreting for two Deafblind individuals in the audience.

It was a refreshing experience knowing everyone had access to what was going on in that room.

Earlier, during her part of the keynote presentations, she shared about her journey as a Deafblind person, from trying to fit in at her school to now truly enjoying being different.  She identifies herself as Deafblind.  I agree with her about using "Deafblind", in one word, rather than Deaf and Blind, Blind and Deaf, etc.  Personally, I understand Deaf plus Blind does not compute correctly to represent the challenges and identity of being Deafblind.  Deafblindness is so different than being only Deaf or only Blind.

I had the pleasure of talking with Haben in person about countries we visited and one I have yet to visit that she already did: Turkey.  We communicated via the keyboard and her braille display and then moved over to tactile sign language with a bit of Pro-Tactile/affirmative-touch feedback on her arm.  She had a person at her side relaying facial expressions and whatever else, on Haben's back, (also a component of Pro-Tactile) that they agreed in advance that she wanted to know. It was a pleasure!  

Her name sign is the letter H pointed down at the open, upward-facing palm of the other hand in the motion of the sign for dance, to represent her lifelong love of dance.  She particularly enjoys partner dancing.

The entire symposium was successful and inspiring.  I look forward to the 2017 Texas DeafBlind Symposium.

Haben, if you're reading this, I look forward to the next time we meet!

Haben Girma spoke during her part of the keynote presentations at the Texas DeafBlind Symposium.
She received questions and audience information via her refreshable braille display on the podium, an ASL interpreter for the audience stood around 5 meters to Haben's left.

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