KOHIMA, DECEMBER 3: Losing vision at a young age would have made many of us retreat to the confines of the four walls and becoming dependent on our family members. However, Khrieselhounuo Rüpreo, who hails from Chechama Village in Kohima district, refused to give in to loss of vision, a tragedy which befell her very early in life.
Now a 31-year-old, Rüpreo was diagnosed with macular degeneration when she was in Class 1, a condition that causes central vision loss, partial in her case. While her condition is categorized as ‘partially blind’, she cannot see and read without somebody assisting her.
In spite of the challenges, she confronted at such a young age, Rüpreo has more feathers in her cap than an average person without any disability. Rüpreo has a Bachelors Degree in English which she obtained from Baptist College Kohima, LLB Degree from Kohima Law College from where she also acquired a Masters in English Literature through correspondence simultaneously. She is currently working as a Secretary Assistant in State Home Department, a job she has rightfully earned after her fifth crack at the Nagaland Public Service Commission exams in 2018.
Speaking on the occasion of International Day for Persons With Disabilities, Rüpreo reflected on the challenges in education she faced as a visually impaired student. “Since someone had to read out from the books for me, I couldn’t study whenever I wanted to,” she said.
As for appearing exams, “I always needed an invigilator to read out the questions to me and I wrote the answers,” she said. Recounting how troublesome it was for her to even move between her home, schools and college, she is grateful to God, her teacher, parents, friends and classmates, who always supported her through the challenging years. “Without them, I would never have reached this far,” she said in a grateful manner.
Sharing her experience from her daily lives, Rüpreo said “We rarely come across disabled people in our State. It is not because there are no disabled people but because we lack the visibility in public spheres of life.” She further reasoned that it might be due to the fact that since Nagaland lags behind in providing accessibility to schools, colleges, jobs and other pursuits of life, PWDs are mostly confined to their homes.
Even awareness about disability and awareness about disability rights are very low in all spheres in our State, she said. “I remember until Class 10, I had no knowledge about disability certificate and I believe this is the case with many parents and guardians of Persons With Disabilities in our State,” she added.
Queried on the obstacles she faces in present times, Rüpreo told Nagaland Page that “As a Christian State people are quite understanding and caring but there is still the issue of acceptance by the society.” She explained that it does not mean that people don’t accept people living with disabilities, but the attitude is different. “For instance, I also come across people who find me so different and they feel hesitant to talk to me; they themselves are at a loss on what to really say which eventually makes the situation awkward,” she observed.
“Another issue is that Nagaland lags behind in accessibility. We are not aware about the accessibility for disabled, accessibility in the context of PWDs are the assistive technologies, disabled-friendly computers, screen reader and software,” she informed.
“However, one good thing happening in our Department is that they are in the process of acquiring this assistive technology to enable me to work with greater efficiency” Rüpreo shared in a cheerful tone.
Rüpreo lauded the State Government for ushering in important and noticeable changes to alleviate the conditions of PWDs in many ways such as providing 4% job reservation in the Government sector, provisions of pensions, scholarships and issuance of Unique Disability ID (UDI). But, Rüpreo opined, the Government should focus on education for PWDs by making it inclusive and accessible because it is a basic ground where transformation can happen.”
On having cracked NPSC with numerous academic degrees under her belt, Rüpreo was asked about her next goal in life. “Now that I am a Government employee, I just want to be an efficient employee and be an example to other PWDs so that they too will be encouraged to see the potential within themselves and achieve greater things in life.”