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Nagaland neglected disability sector for a very long time: Nakhro


Asks Church to play wider role in creating better awareness on inclusion of PwDs

KOHIMA, MAY 18: Nagaland State Commissioner for Disabilities, Diethono Nakhro today remarked that disability was a hugely neglected sector in the State for a very long time.
Therefore, in the past many years, be it the Government or the society as a whole, there was no attention being paid to the disability sector, Nakhro said while speaking during the Global Accessibility Awareness Day organized by Nagaland State Disability Forum (NSDF) and supported by the State Commission for persons with Disabilities (PwDs) at Hotel Japfu here on the theme “Accessibility in the Church”.
It was informed that the day, which falls on every third Thursday of May, was postponed and observed today as it had coincided with Naga Plebiscite Day.
In Naga society, unlike other societies, we do not mistreat the family members who are disabled nor do we discard them but there are some stray cases, she said.
“We in fact become over protective of our disabled family members and because of the stigma and discrimination that goes along with disability, many families do not like their disabled family members to come out into the open or socialize”, she said.
“There are huge negative attitudes and misconceptions against disabilities as if it is something bad, so we still have a lot of barriers that need to be overcome when it comes to disabilities”, she said.
She said that because of the neglect prevalent for a long time, awareness and understanding is very poor about the rights and the needs of people with disability including the church.
In this, Nakhro stressed on the need for the church to play a wider role in spreading better understanding on inclusion of PwDs not just within the church but in the society as a whole.
She said while some churches have been providing minimal support facilities for their PwD members, many churches – may be knowingly or unknowingly or even due to lack of awareness – exclude PwDs.
In this, she stressed that the church can do better in its role in inclusion of PwDs.
The church is not doing enough but with the authority and influence it has, the church can do so much more in changing the attitude and perception of people about PwDs while also educating the masses on inclusion and acceptance of PwDs thereby becoming the role model for the wider society.
She said the church should promote inclusion of PwDs not only within the church but the society as a whole.
“Situation over the years is slowly changing and there are a lot of good things happening and progress is taking place. We are happy about the positive steps being taken but there is still a long way to go”, she said.
She, therefore, stressed on the role of the church in creating better awareness about the welfare of PwDs and making people understand their needs by becoming more inclusive.
Explaining about the different forms of disabilities, she suggested that the churches should come up with facilities for the PwD members including engaging usage sign languages for them to listen to the messages and other related information of the church.
The State PwD Commissioner also asserted that the Commission and Nagaland State Disability Forum are always willing to extend their support to the church towards the effort.
Sharing the voice of PwDs, Amenuo Khoubve said PwDs are a community often marginalized and overlooked and as a diverse and vibrant community they deserve to be heard, understood and included in every aspect of society.
Having grown up as a hearing impaired individual, she said it was a journey filled with both obstacles and moments of resilience.
“From an early age, we were confronted with the realization that we experience the world differently than our hearing peers. Simple aspects such as having conversations, participating in social activities or enjoying social gatherings have posed significant challenges for most days of our lives”, she pointed.
Yet, despite these obstacles, they learn to adapt, to persevere, and to find their own voice in a world that often seems designed for those who can hear and speak, she said.
As a Christian, Khoubve said, she felt that one of the greatest disadvantages of growing up hearing impaired was the disability of attending church but she was at least privileged to attend a school run by the Deaf Biblical Ministry, Dimapur, where she first encountered Christ and received baptism.
“But there are many disabled persons who are hearing impaired like me, isolated from the Church. Involving the hearing impaired in church is crucial for fostering inclusivity.
I feel the need that my brothers and sisters who are hearing impaired like me and who are yet to encounter Christ need to be saved by the church”, she said.
She also put forward some strategies that the church can give thought to making the holy place more accessible for all believers by designing services and events with accessibility in mind, such as providing sign language interpreters, captioning for ox, installing ramps and ensuring that sermons are easy to understand for individuals with cognitive disabilities, provide transportation options for individuals with mobility limitations who may have difficulty getting to church on their own, develop programmes and small groups specifically to meet the needs and interests of individuals with disabilities, such as Bible studies, social gatherings or support groups, assessing and modifying the physical environment of the church to remove barriers and ensure accessibility for all.
By implementing these strategies, the church can create an environment where individuals with disabilities feel welcomed, included and valued as integral members of the congregation, she said.
She also informed that currently she, along with other deaf friends, are regularly attending the Deaf Prayer Fellowship, Kohima, which was established last year just below State Cultural Hall near NSF Martyrs’ Park.
“Let us commit ourselves to building more inclusive communities where all are welcomed, valued and embraced regardless of their abilities”, she urged.
The programme was moderated by Viketukho Nakhro while Eliza Chishi was the sign interpreter.
(Page News Service)