Tales Of Woe : Differently-Abled Students Share Their Stories Of Struggle


Himalayan News Service

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Individuals who go through life with mobility or visual impairments or other disabilities are unable to have the so-called normal college experience. Neither they get course books to suit them nor do colleges have infrastructure that are differently-abled friendly. Students who are able to struggle to pursue higher studies have bitter experience as there are no programmes offered either by the colleges or government that are friendly to them.

A struggle to reach the class Every day Sarita Koirala rolls her wheelchair from Bagbazaar to the second floor of Ratna Rajya Laxmi Campus at Pradarshani Marg. After Koirala, pursuing her Masters Degree in Journalism, reaches college gate, she needs four people to reach the classroom.

"My friends carry me in the wheelchair up the stairs to classroom," shared 20-year-old Koirala, who sometimes "gets disheartened for she has to depend upon others to get to class every time".

Though Koirala manages to reach her classroom, Raju Chhetri, who recently passed Class XII from Pashupati Multiple Campus, Chabahil , never attended college. "Reaching the classroom is almost impossible for our classes used to be held on the third floor," shared Chhetri, an other wheelchair user.

No textbooks This BA Ist year student at Padma Kanya Multiple (PK) Campus , Bag bazaar, is from Chitwan and cur rently residing in the college hos tel, is visually impaired by her birth. "I joined this college after completing my intermediate from Chitwan," shared Bidya Poudel who learnt Braille after arriving in Kathmandu a few months ago.

"But there is not much use of Braille for neither textbooks nor notes are available in Braille," shared Poudel who however attends classes regularly. "Had there been textbooks in Braille, it would have been easier for me to study," l claimed Poudel who "has to de t pend on audio CDs to study".

"An institution in Pokhara has made an audio CD of few of the subjects and I listen to those," she said revealing her technique of study. But no CDs are available for subjects like English. Sometimes her friends read out aloud to her.

"You have to listen and remember t everything and it is very difficult to i study with CD or friends," she argued.

Rude public r vehicles r Public transportation is another discouraging factor for these college goers, who struggle everyday to reach their destination. "Most public vehicles try not to let us in," shared 30-year-old Chhetri, who had fallen from his bicycle when he was in Class X. Since then he has been using a wheelchair to commute from one place to another. Though he travels shorter distances on the wheelchair, he takes a taxi most of the time "being unable to travel in public vehicles".

Koirala's story too is not much different. "Many times I had borrowed money from friends to hail a taxi," revealed Koirala who finds roads of Kathmandu unsafe for wheelchair users.

As the footpaths are not well maintained, wheelchair users like her are forced to travel on the road and there are chances of accidents. "I have been hit by bikes many times while going to college," she said.

Financial problems Though differently-abled students are given scholarship by the government, they are facing difficulties in pursuing their studies.

Poudel, for instance managed to pass her Intermediate with support from her parents, but pursuing Bachelor's has been very difficult for her. She need not pay her college fee but "I have to pay around Rs 2,000 per month at the hostel. My parents are unable to manage that money and I have been paying the same borrowing from friends," revealed Poudel who is in search of an organisation that would sponsor her.

Chhetri, all the way from Birat nagar, lives in a rented room with his parents in Chabahil. "It is diffi cult to survive because no kind of economic support for me. I want to work and become indepen dent. I am not given the opportu nity despite my confidence," com plained Chhetri, who has a dream of becoming an RJ. Ways ahead "If only colleges could construct ramps or run classes on the ground floor, we need not depend upon others just to attend class," expressed Koirala. Gopal Chandra Pokharel, Chief of Ratna Rajya Laxmi Campus, accepting the problems faced by the differentlyabled students at his college argued, "We have very old buildings and it is not possible to make them friendly for wheelchair users. But we will definitely think about the issue while constructing new buildings."

He even accepted "being unable to prepare textbooks in Braille for visually-impaired students".

Blaming inefficient laws, Ganesh Bhattarai, Project Coordinator of National Federation of Disabled Nepal (NDFN) and Disabled People's Organisation Denmark (DPOD) argued, "The national building code 2004 has directives for public buildings to be constructed in a way so that they are friendly to differently-abled people. But there is not much implementation of it."

He further stated, "Nepal has signed the Convention of Rights of Persons with Disability (CRPD). If government incorporates provisions of this and makes the laws of country accordingly, the differently-abled students will get to live a much easier life."

(Source: The Himalayan Times)