Before, members of a Muslim family in Scarborough, Toronto, perform their ablutions, spread their prayer rugs facing Mecca, and begin their prostrations and prayers. In St. Michael’s Cathedral, worshippers line up for their turn to have a priest place a wafer on their hand, murmuring, “This is the body of Christ, given for you.” In the Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Hindu monks perform morning hymns (prabhatiya), and show respect to their deities with offerings of food and garments. The Unitarian Congregation of Guelph gathers to explore important life questions, support each other in living with purpose and meaning, and work toward peace and justice.
The monks of the Gajang Tibetan Buddhist Meditation Center in Parkdale, Toronto, perform meditation and hear teachings from their branch of Buddhism. On the Six Nations reserve near Brantford, First Nations men, women, and children honour the land of their ancestors. For Jewish communities in Ontario and around the world, Shabbat begins at sunset on Friday. In the Sikh communities of Brampton, the Ragis recite, sing, and interpret the verses from the Guru Granth Sahib in the presence of the community.
These and countless other moments in the lives of people across Ontario are threads of the tapestry we call religion. All religions share the goal of binding people to something beneath the surface of life. All believers ultimately desire to include everybody, bringing together people across all walks of life into their community. This unique atmosphere comes about from ritual, song, prayer, committee work, charitable work, hospitality, and other social and spiritual practices. Everyone needs to be included in these experiences, but sometimes people with disabilities are not.
Full and meaningful participation in rituals, worship, and faith community activities affirms belonging and is often an extension of one’s faith. People with disabilities in your community may be excluded from participation in these activities because many traditions, activities, and spaces have been designed without considering the needs of people with disabilities. Ontario faith communities can enhance their welcoming traditions and include people with disabilities by:
- Reflecting on the current involvement of people with visible and invisible disabilities in their community.
- Identifying and removing barriers of attitude, communication, and architecture.
- Encouraging people with disabilities to participate in the religious, social, and cultural life of their community.
In each section of this guide, you will find facts about people with disabilities, strategies, tips, and various resources on accessibility and inclusion, especially in faith contexts. It is our hope that the resources included here will be used to open the minds, hearts, and doors of faith communities to people with all kinds of abilities. Let’s begin!