Participation of People with Disabilities

Once people with disabilities have experienced welcome, they want to participate—to share in the community, and to give back authentically. Participation can look like reading, praying, singing, cooking or serving food, or many other activities. The resources below concern participation through the lens of different faiths.

Christian Resources:

Including Adults with Disabilities in Religious Life and Education,” a resource created by the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities. This in-depth guidebook for religious leaders and “faith partners” (faithful allies of people with various disabilities) outlines the creation of an “inclusion plan” for people with disabilities, and some barriers to education that worshippers with disabilities face.

Disabilities and Faith,” this resource, created by the Center for Persons with Disabilities in Utah, states the problem of inaccessible churches, and describes in simple terms both how to encourage participation of people with disabilities in Christian faith communities, and how to get in touch with other organizations who perform disability education and advocacy.

Guiding Principles & Strategies for Inclusion in the Liturgy of Catholics with Disabilities,” these guiding principles are provided for Pastors, Liturgists, Parish Advocates, Liturgy Planners, Designers, Architects, and all those who have a concern for the design of the worship space and the planning of liturgical celebrations. They are provided for the purpose of assuring that all members of the worshiping community are able to participate fully in the worship life of their parishes and also to insure that all who are appropriately qualified can fully participate in the various liturgical ministries.

My Body is Not a Prayer Request,” by Amy Kenny. Much of the church has forgotten that we worship a disabled God whose wounds survived resurrection, says Amy Kenny. It is time for the church to start treating disabled people as full members of the body of Christ who have much more to offer than a miraculous cure narrative and to learn from their embodied experiences. Written by a disabled Christian, this book shows that the church is missing out on the prophetic witness and blessing of disability. Kenny reflects on her experiences inside the church to expose unintentional ableism and cast a new vision for Christian communities to engage disability justice. She shows that until we cultivate church spaces where people with disabilities can fully belong, flourish, and lead, we are not valuing the diverse members of the body of Christ. Offering a unique blend of personal storytelling, fresh and compelling writing, biblical exegesis, and practical application, this book invites readers to participate in disability justice and create a more inclusive community in church and parachurch spaces. Engaging content such as reflection questions and top-ten lists are included.

Islamic Resources:

Najah Zaaeed, “Accessibility, Acceptance, Islamic Education,” a resource created by Muslim Matters. This article discusses many of the challenges faced by Muslims with disabilities in terms of participating in their mosques, especially women; that said, it also points out some simple technological solutions to some problems of access, and points out the significance of physical access.

The Fatal Feminist, “The Mosque and (In)Accessibility,” a resource by the Fatal Feminist. This short blog-post reveals some of the frustrations of Muslim American woman who asks significant questions about justice and access for Muslim women and Muslims with disabilities.

Jewish Resources:

Jane E. Herman, “10 Vital Jewish Resources on Disability Awareness and Inclusion,” a resource created by the Union for Reform Judaism. This short blog-post is a collection of resources that concern the inclusion of people with disabilities in both Jewish and secular contexts.

Yachad / National Jewish Council for People with Disabilities, Disability Inclusion Resource Guide for Rabbis, is a resource created by Yachad/National Jewish Council for Disabilities, “an agency of the Orthodox Union, is a 6,500-member global organization dedicated to the Inclusion of all Jews with disabilities in every aspect of Jewish life.” This short booklet claims that “inclusion begins with the rabbi,” discusses the creation of synagogue inclusion-committees, describes the North American Inclusion Month, provides support for inclusion from the Torah and various rabbinic sources, and offers activities for adults, adolescents, and children.

Other Resources:

Helen Sanderson, “Person Centred Planning: Key Features and Approaches.”  This resource outlines the important features of Person-Centred Planning, a tool in the helping professions that can enable people with disabilities to set and achieve their own goals, and to flourish in a personal sense.