Environments speak just as loudly as words—just because we have a wheelchair ramp doesn’t mean we are truly accessible for persons with disabilities. At our last gathering, Rev. Letiah Fraser, local pastor and disability rights activist, facilitated our conversation about how we could grow in becoming the kind of people and church who invite all into community, engagement, and leadership. Throughout her talk, Letiah offered several questions for reflection which helped us process how people with disabilities are perceived in the world:
How do you define disability?
What are images of disability you’ve seen in our society? In the media?
What would it look like for us to be a space in which people with physical and mental disabilities can engage?
What changes might we need to make?
Letiah shared that being mindful of the words we use is the first step to being truly accessible. She has worked for the past 10 years as a youth advocate at The Whole Person, a local disability rights organization in Kansas City, and noted that they have a wealth of resources and support available. Visit their website to learn more about interacting with people who have disabilities, core services available, community life, and to check out their resource library. She also suggested that we Google “people first language”, and learn more about how to use language which is inclusive and affirming.
Letiah also challenged us to have a robust theology of disability, understanding that the Christian faith is one in which the image of brokenness is also one of wholeness–especially in the practice of Communion. There is a theme of weakness as strength which runs through the Bible, and speaks to our conversation. It’s important to allow space for people to experience God and their disabilities. We don’t pray disabilities away or imply that there is something wrong with people because they are experiencing them. On the contrary, we make space for all in our community through learning and practicing words and actions which welcome all and invite all into leadership. You can listen to the entire conversation here.
For further learning, below are a few resources to check out!