When Sristi KC, signed up for a class during her Masters in Anthropology, she was denied a place. The reason: She was blind and the professor thought it would be difficult to teach her.
This was not the first time that KC, who grew up in the hubbub of Kathmandu’s Baneshwor, faced discrimination because of her blindness.
After completing her School Leaving Certificate Exam, KC applied to a high school to complete her 11th and 12th. But the whole process left her shocked. “Most of the schools were reluctant to admit a blind person,” KC recalls her first encounter in discrimination in academia.
“I remember that a friend had also applied to the same school,” KC says. “We had studied under the same teachers in the same classroom. We even received similar marks in our SLC,” she added. While her friend received a 30 percent discount on her college fees—based on her grades, KC’s application wasn’t even considered.
The situation she found herself in would have been unthinkable for her friends and teachers who, until two years back, knew her school as an outstanding conversationalist and orator—qualities that could help her pursue a career in law.
But her life took an unexpected turn when she lost her eyesight while she was in the 8th grade. She was prescribed a medicine for an eye allergy, however, the use of it went unmonitored and her vision only got worse. As hopes of getting her sight back dwindled with time, KC knew she had no option but to live with it. Determined not to let her life stagnate, she continued with her studies.
Although she couldn’t pursue a career in law, the skills she honed during her school days would come in handy later. KC, who holds a Masters in Anthropology from an international university, founded Blind Rocks!--a non-profit that focuses on improving the lives of blind people in Nepal.
But that’s not the only hat she wears. KC, who infuses energy into young people with her motivational speeches, is already planning to start her own talk show on TV after winning the hearts of millions of viewers through her performance in the reality TV show ‘Dancing With the Stars’.
According to KC, she decided to participate in the show as disability of any kind is hardly ever portrayed in a good light in Nepal. “I wanted to portray my life as something positive,” she tells the ApEX.
Before KC hit the stage with her dance, stage performances by blind people were rare in the country. People were being denied the opportunity just because they were blind, she argues. “When you generalize an entire group with a narrow-minded stereotype, you’re closing the door of opportunities for them. And when you present them in a bad light, the legacy carries on and it’s hard to dismantle it,” she says.
While her accomplishments have required great courage and strength, KC also had her fair share of struggles, the foremost being people’s view towards differently-abled individuals that they always need to prove themselves. “When blind people try to do something for themselves, society thinks ‘they’re trying to prove that they’re capable’,” she adds. “But we must be allowed to exist without having to carry the burden of having to ‘prove something’.”
Many would say the lack of disabled-friendly infrastructure in the country is the main reason why people living with disabilities can’t realize their full potential. But KC doesn’t believe that. She rather points her finger towards people’s mindset. “Yes, the infrastructure in our country isn’t friendly to us,” she says. “But it’s when society views a disabled person as helpless that creates an even bigger obstacle. We are often looked down as beings who are incapable. But the truth is that we’re just as capable as any other human. Our way of contributing to society might differ from the rest, but it is a contribution nonetheless.”
The social activist also brings up the issue of the lack of job opportunities. “Oftentimes, our careers are forced to be based on our disability. It’s instilled in us from a young age,” she confesses.
“When I lost my eyesight, I still wanted to continue dancing. But people told me to quit and opt for music instead. Our options are taken away from us before we even get a chance to try them out.”
KC’s life has taken many turns, but she has navigated through them all with the help of her perseverance. She resolved not to allow anyone else to decide for her. That’s the one piece of advice she has for every young person, “Be in charge, be responsible for your life because no one else will.”
That’s what she had done back at her university. She fought for her place in the class, and when she was denied, she studied the subject anyway, completing it with an A+.