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Doing justice

Supriya never allowed her visual impairment to come in the way of becoming a formidable lawyer.

NO STOPPING HER: Chandra Supriya

HOW WOULD you feel if your daughter suffered from diminishing vision and is visually impaired in her early twenties? Would you in your wildest dreams imagine this child will one day be deciding how justice should be served. Read on then, about the sheer grit and determination that makes Chandra Supriya the first visually impaired woman to walk the corridors of the Secunderabad Court.

What began as night vision apprehensions at age seven, progressed to glasses by age 11 and the slow but steady Macular degeneration left Supriya with 50 per cent vision when she entered the P.R.R. Law College in 1995. By the time she was in her third year her vision was completely affected. Although her parents took her to numerous doctors, not one was able to diagnose her problem of Retinitus Pigmentosa - an eye disease, which is normally hereditary and most common in consanguineous marriages (marriages within the immediate family). In 1994 her parents took her to the L.V.Prasad Eye Institute where Supriya and her family had to come to terms with reality. This was not easy but with professional help at L.V.P.E.I.'s rehabilitation centre, Supriya was taught basic skills like walking with a cane, doing simple household chores, counting money, using public transport, learning braille etc. On completion of her LLB she was employed as a junior lawyer and enrolled for evening classes for LLM. She has consciously chosen to do her Masters in Legislative Law. "As a blind woman I am doubly disabled, but I have been blessed with caring parents, helpful siblings, encouraging teachers, understanding employees and wonderful friends. I am indebted to my classmate Hari Prasad who went out of his way to help me with my studies and cajoled me to enter this profession. I will be truly happy when I am in a position to amend some of our constitutional laws particularly in the area of Reservations for the physically challenged. We need to be given equal opportunities, we may not be as fast as the physically abled but we certainly are human with similar dreams, desires and ambition. I hope to have my own practice someday and employ only physically challenged people in my office.'' Starting her career with the help of her lecturer Malar Vijji and fortunate to have worked with Advocate M. Narahari, she now works at the office of Advocate C. Balagopal who says, "I constantly encourage her and treat her just like everybody else in my office. To make up for her lack of vision, Supriya has tremendous memory and can grasp any case with just one reading.

She joins me in the court and handles cross examinations.''

Supriya was awarded the Best Junior Advocate for 2001 by Senior Advocate K. Prabhakar Rao who with a scholarship presented her with a Scanner. With this equipment, whatever is scanned is read aloud according to one's required speed and tone.

This makes reading of official documents very simple for Supriya. The "Kurzweil'' and "Jaws'' software are also designed for the visually impaired.

Supriya has been an all rounder from her school days and received the Best Student award in college. She used to paint until differentiating between colours became a problem. She has an ear for Carnatic music, plays the veena and writes poetry. She and is touched by President Abdul Kalam's selfless gesture of donating his salary to a blind school in his hometown, Rameshwaram. Supriya with five others formed the Tapasya Charitable Trust in March this year. Through donations they hope to impart their knowledge of computers to other physically challenged individuals for free.

Dr. M.S.A. Khan, Director Vision Rehabilitation L.V.P.E.I. says, "It is heart breaking to interact with patients of RP. It is deadlier than cancer because of the psycho-social impact."

"There is no cure and it gets progressively worse. And what is far more tragic is that patients who suffer with RP have normal eye structure, which is why they are often mistaken and people refuse to accept that they are visually challenged. Fortunately Supriya had a few years of vision, which now serve as a memory data bank."

"For example if you talk to her about a bus, she has the basic concept, unlike a person who is visually impaired from birth. Inspite of which, there is no denying that her achievements can only be attributed to her positive outlook and single minded determination to overcome any and all obstacles and come out successfully.''

The Goddess of Justice is portrayed as a blindfolded lady, weighing scale in hand -- the sense of sight should not then be a prerequisite in this profession and Chandra Supriya is proof enough to justify that!

Details or rehabilitation for the visually impaired are available on www.lvpepe and for any other information e- mail chaandra


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