You may think of disability as the need for a wheelchair or a cane. While this is an aspect of disability, let’s think a bit broader.
Disabilities include any long-term health conditions that restrict our ability to participate in society on an equal basis with others.
Disability is generally divided into four groups of impairments: physical, sensory, intellectual and psychosocial. So how common is disability in your church?
One in six Australians live with a disability. One in ten Australians are primary carers for a person with a disability. Pause for a moment and consider if people with disabilities and their carers are represented in your church or ministry.
So how do we respond? Let’s first look at things another way. Disability is not just about someone’s impairment, but about how they are engaging with the world around them. The experience of being disabled varies depending on the physical and social environment and whether there are barriers that can prevent access to being an active member of a community.
A welcoming environment that accommodates for people with disabilities reduces these barriers, enabling people with disabilities to be their authentic selves.
How included you feel can depend on very simple things. Is there a ramp at the entrance for wheelchairs? If there’s not you feel more excluded. If there is you suddenly feel more welcome. Is there an Auslan interpreter at services and meetings for people who are deaf or hard of hearing? Is there a buddy in kid’s church for children with autism? Do we take time to listen carefully to people who struggle to speak?
Disability is a frequent and normal part of life and the best way to welcome people with disabilities into your church is to respectfully ask them how they wish to be welcomed and included.