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

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

How to ask the questions?

Michael Oliver is an author in disability who I really enjoy reading. He makes me think. In his book with Bob Sapey, Social Work with Disabled People (2006, third edition) he relates two sets of questions asked of persons with disabilities. One set from a 1986 disability survey and the other a set of alternative questions he (Oliver) developed in 1990. He makes the point that respondents are influenced by the way surveys ask questions. In particular, he relates that the particular survey done in 1986 causes respondents to think of themselves as inadequate by the way questions were asked. I want to juxtapose the two sets of questions so that you can see the difference clearly. These questions and the discussion surrounding them can be found on pages 60-61 of the book.

1986-What complaint causes your difficulty in holding, gripping or turning things?
1990-What defects in the design of everyday equipment like jars, bottles or tins causes you difficulty in holding, gripping or turning them.

1986-Are your difficulties in understanding people mainly due to a hearing problem?
1990-Are your difficulties in understanding people mainly due to their inabilities to communicate with you?

1986-Do you have a scar, blemish or deformity which limits your daily activities?
1990-Do other people's reactions to any scar, blemish or deformity you may have, limit your daily activities?

1986-Have you attended a special school because of long-term health problem or disability?
1990-Have you attended a special school because of your education authority's policy of sending people with your heal problem or disability to such places?

1986-Does your health problem/disability mean that you need to live with relatives or someone else who can look after you?
1990-Are community services so poor that you need to rely on relatives or someone else to provide you with the right level of personal assistance?

Oliver advocates for what he calls "the social model of disability". He states, "The argument for a social model of disability is that the causal relationship begins with the reactions of mainstream society to people with impairments that oppress and exclude them. Part of this oppression is the imposition of an understanding of disabiltiy that blames the individual" (p. 60).

I had the opportunity to address a small group of people this past week at Community Christian College in Redlands, California. During the question and answer time at the end, a gentleman asked an interesting question. "Why do you think people with disabilities don't go to church?" The question, although a good one, reminded me of some of the questions above.
What is it about people with disabilities that causes them to not be church goers?
What is it about being disabled that makes you not want to go to church?

The answers I provided seemed unsatisfactory to several in attendance. You see my answers related to church attitudes, or leadership attitudes, or changes which needed to occur within the church. Those unsatisfied wanted me to provide answers about the people with disabilities. The only answers I could provide were things like, people don't like to be around other people who are impatient with them, people don't like to be around other people who don't they are important, people don't like to be around other people who wish they weren't there, people don't like to be around other people who don't want to have to change the things they do in order to make a more accepting environment. Or even something as simple as people will not go places where they are not invited to go. The answers had little to do with the people with disabilities and much more to do with the unacepting environment. I could tell the questioners rejected my response saying they couldn't or wouldn't believe that churches were like that. Obviously churches are loving and caring and accepting places. Therefore if disabled people were not in churches in numbers reflecting the community, there was something wrong with the disabled people.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It is not at all "obvious" that the church is a loving, caring and accepting place. It is only obvious, from scripture, that it commanded to exhibit those characteristics. But the leopard, unable to change it's spots, cannot also be a lamb.

The attitude of churchmen who cling to the belief that persons with disabilities are not present in the chrch as a result of some fault within the disabled person impies that there is something wrong in being disabled.

It is one thing to pronounce that Jesus stands at the door and knocks. It is quite another thing to put roadblocks in the path of persons that prevent them from getting up to open the door and invite him.

Shame on those people at Redlands Community Christian College. Are people with disabilities not in church because there is something wrong with them? or Does the church have no people with disabilities becuse there is someting wrong with it?