Jaimi Lard loves adventure. She has surfed, skied, swung on a trapeze and testified before Congress. Born deaf and blind, she is extraordinary, but she is also as ordinary as anyone: she eats out at restaurants, enjoys meeting friends for coffee and rides a bike. She was a Girl Scout.
As the Diversity & Inclusion Speaker for Perkins School for the Blind, Lard engages and entertains while challenging audiences to embrace inclusion and value the ability of every person. In a typical year, she addresses dozens of groups and thousands of individuals about living independently as a person who is deafblind.
She annually testifies before Massachusetts legislative committees, advocating for programs and services for people with deafblindness. In 2006, she addressed over 10,000 people at the Lions International Convention, the first person who is deafblind to address this convention since Helen Keller did in 1925. Lard was named a “Hero Among Us” by the Boston Celtics Shamrock Foundation for her advocacy work for people with disabilities and was invited to accept an a posthumous award for Anne Sullivan from the Irish American Hall of Fame, among many other honors.
Lard brings her highly personal, insightful and interactive multimedia presentations to universities, community groups, professional associations, schools and conventions. With the assistance of her interpreter, she invites her audiences to experience her world, which is defined more by ingenuity than by disability. Audiences come away with a sense that they, too, can communicate across perceived barriers. She urges the crowd to connect with her directly. “If you applaud,” she says, “I will not be able to hear you. But if you stamp your feet, I will feel the vibrations and know you enjoyed our time together.”
When you book Jaimi: You’ll get a spirited speaker who is dynamic and engaging despite being unable to see or hear her audience. She will demonstrate to your group that we all have more in common than we think. Lard has spoken to government agencies, large employers, college students, community groups and conventions.
- The courage to be inclusive: A practical approach to a more inclusive society
- Just like us: With or without disabilities, people are more alike than different
- Making a connection: Communicating with someone who doesn’t hear or speak
- Unlocking the gate: How technology and other breakthroughs are making life more accessible for people with disabilities
Recent speaking engagements: Wheelock College, Acton’s Discovery Museum, Lion’s Club of Millis
“Your positive attitude reminds us all that in life, any barrier can be overcome with determination, persistence and hard work. You are an inspiration to all of us.” – Mike O’Shaughnessy, Millis Lions Club
"Jaimi’s ideas and actions demonstrate her motivation to chart her own destiny. To our students, she brings a level of authenticity that leads them to examine numerous barriers to success that exist for many people in society, today. Her resilience evokes students' commitment – as aspiring human-services professionals – toward facilitating the best opportunities and outcomes for all human beings; this, they concede is the very essence of humanity." -- Dr. Felicity Crawford, Chair of Special Education and Associate Professor, Wheelock College