It’s My Church Too.
Including People with Disabilities in the life of the church.
The Healthcare Committee, a subcommittee of the Dublin Diocesan Jubilee Committee have completed a project to help us all to be aware of people with disabilities. They have produced a booklet entitled “It’s My Church Too”. The purpose of this booklet is to provoke thought about the gifts and talents that people with disabilities have to offer in the life of the Church.
We are all disabled
All of us have abilities and disabilities – each of us have things we can do well and things we cannot do at all. While a person may be unable to see, to hear, to walk, to talk or whatever, this does not mean that they are unable to do anything. For too long many of us have focused on what people with disabilities are unable to do. We need to change our attitude, to be more inclusive so that every person can be as fully active and involved in the life of the church as they wish to be.
Inclusion means to offer the same respect and opportunities to all people. Inclusion means giving people with disabilities the opportunity to serve in Liturgy and all aspects of life in the Church. The Body of Christ is more fully alive when all people have the possibility of inclusion and participation.
Signs of Hope
Since the project began, many wonderful things have begun to happen. Many people with disabilities have started to contribute to the discussion in their local parishes or communities and we also learned of the many parishes where people with disabilities are taking a very active role in the life of the Church. We hope that the lack of awareness and the fear which were prevalent in the past will be transformed by the publication of the booklet.
Practical things to do.
· Speak directly to the person with a disability and not through their companion.
· Shake hands with the person when introduced.
· Place yourself at eye level for easy conversation with a person using a wheelchair or walker.
· Offer assistance, but wait until the offer is accepted – do not insist.
· Give your whole unhurried attention to the person who has difficulty speaking rather than speaking for them.
· Encourage people with disabilities to participate in the life of the Church to the level of their ability.
· Please treat adults with intellectual disabilities as adults not as children.
· Get the attention of a person with a hearing impairment by lightly tapping their elbow or shoulder, or by waving your hand. Look directly at the person and speak clearly, slowly and expressively to establish if the person can lip read.
· Read the weekly church bulletin to a person who is blind or visually impaired.
· Guide a person who is blind or visually impaired by first identifying yourself and then offering your arm. Give verbal clues to steps, doors, footpaths and escalators.
If we all take the next step together there will be no end to the wonderful possibilities for all people. Together we can make it happen.
Don’t forget there is a person behind every disability.