“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

U.S. Catholic Bishops part 4

The following is from the "Doctrine and Pastoral Practices" website sponsored by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. This is available at http://www.ncbuscc.org/doctrine/disabilities.htm"

"4. Defense of the right to life implies the defense of all other rights which enable the individual with the disability to achieve the fullest measure of personal development of which he or she is capable. These include the right to equal opportunity in education, in employment, in housing, and in health care, as well as the right to free access to public accommodations, facilities and services."

Once the right to life is secured (and it is arguable that it has not yet been secured, as evidenced by the Bishops' third statement) our hope would be to expand rights to include those which facilitate the fullest measure of personal development. This is one of the reasons this blog spends so much time on opening the church to persons with disabilty as churches do indeed facilitate a fuller measure of personal development, and not just in the spiritual arena. The notion of personal development of persons with disabilities is not one that the church necessarily knows how to do. The comment was once made to me that disabled persons don't improve, so why devote so much time to them? The fact of the matter is that even the most severe of disabled persons do evidence improvement (I haven't done the research yet, but anecdotally I have observed this) although perhaps not to the degree of those without disability. However, as with all church members, it should interest the church whether its members are achieving the fullest development possible, as least as much as they are able to impact development.

Then there should be equal opportunity in
  • education
  • employment
  • housing
  • health care

Education is improving, although equal opportunity doesn't necessarily mean access to the core curriculum being used for students without disability. It should mean access to the type of curriculum which would best serve each student (would facilitate personal growth as above). However, sadly many disability advocates have fought for access to the core curriculum, which is a curriculum built upon a social efficiency model (having the greatest impact for the greatest number of people) not a critical/functional skills model. So students have gained the right to a curriculum which is not necessarily even relevant for them. People have confused access to the core curriculum with integration and so even though children are being educated next to each other, it is arguable as to whether they are receiving the instruction each individually (both those with and without disability) needs to be the most successful.

Employment access has improved somewhat through both the requirements of the Americans with Disability Act, and the increasing recognition among employers that persons with disabilities make good employees. In particular, persons with cognitive disability make great long term workers in entry level jobs. Increasingly, employers are learning that they can save money on hiring a person with cognitive disability to fill positions that have a high turnover rate when persons without disability hold those positions. Actual equal opportunity, well, not quite. The bias against persons with disability is evident in the workplace as employers are simply a subgroup of a larger population who hold the same biases. However, employers go to church and if the church were to involve persons with disability, there would be a greater opportunity for employers to know persons with disabilities and potentially employ them. The gains from network membership are also great in terms of increasing employer tolerance for minor social skill "deficits." More on this aspect of network development is provided at the following website <http://www.jeffmcnair.com/CSRD/networks.htm>

Access to housing, well, they have access to what they may be able to afford. There used to be a program whereby persons with disability were able to receive supplements such that their rent would be no more than a third of their income, however, for whatever reason new applications are not being taken. As a result, I have one friend who is an adult with cognitive disability who pays over 700$ for his apartment and another friend who pays about 260$ for the exact same apartment. The second got into the program when they were still taking applications. Now imagine getting a little over 700$ per month in Social Security, and then having a part time job on the side (part time as you don't want to loose your Social Security benefits) and trying to pay 700$ in rent. As he has stated, he hasn't had the luxury of eating out at McDonald's in the last 6 months because he can't aford it. So access to housing? Access to housing in the worst areas of town.

Health care is better than I might have thought if I hadn't had contact with many of the people I know. I have one friend who has received two kidney transplants, and has been in the hospital on numerous occasions. I have another friend who is dealing with depression who has received great medical support both in terms of long term hospital care, outpatient services and even assistance with medication. Both of these persons have developmental disabilities. Perfect, no, however, I would say it is better by comparison than say housing opportunities by far.

The folks I know also have access to public accommodations (including travel assistance) and various facilities and services. Of course I am not privy to every aspect of their lives, however, I hear few complaints about busses, etc.

So the right to life in terms of other rights is a mixed bag. The church holds huge potential in improving access to other right simply through their inclusion of persons with disability.



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