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Don't Let a Disability Crush Your Legal Career Goals

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By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on February 03, 2016 6:00 AM

If you're an able-bodied individual who's beginning to slip into self-pity, consider people like Haben Girma, the first deaf and blind person to graduate from Harvard Law. Now look reassess your situation.

But if you have a physical disability like Ms. Haben Girma, her story should invigorate you. At the very least, her example destroys common assumptions about what's possible for those with physical disabilities.

From Eritrea to the the US

Girma's mother escaped Eritrea sometime in the early 80s when the chaos of the Eritrean-Ethiopian civil conflict was near its zenith. Despite her disability, she graduated from Lewis & Clark College Magna Cum Laude and then eventually went to Harvard Law where she earned her J.D. in 2013. Today, she is a civil rights advocate for persons with disabilities.

Girma's story is so unique and the hardships so intense that one almost expects her life to be one day immortalized into a movie. After a quick read of her life story, it seems that her mother's impetus for leaving Eritrea was the lack of educational opportunities present there. Girma has a sibling, a brother, who was also born deaf-blind.

Girma has been invited to TedEX conferences to give speeches and has also been to the White House to address audiences, commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the very same federal law that helped her earlier to secure admission to a school specifically created for the deaf-blind.

Amanda Bagwell at Valparaiso Law

Girma isn't the own person making headlines for pursuing her dreams despite disability. Recently, Amanda Bagwell, who is blind, began her legal education at Valparaiso University School of Law. Joined by her service dog, she is pursuing her dream of helping nonviolent offenders reintegrate into society.

Like Girma, Amanda Bagwell is excited to serve as a model for others with disabilities. "Don't wait for opportunities to come to you. Chase them down," says Amanda, according to The Times Media.

Not Just Legal Goals

So much attention here has been given to advancement in the legal world. The accomplishments of Girma and Bagwell accomplishments are monumental. Just imagine reading all your law school casebooks in braille. These examples should be regarded as the template for anyone out there with a physical disability. In fact, they should serve as inspiration for anyone.

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