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

Monday, February 10, 2020

Separating people with and without disabilities

When I look at ministry that includes persons with disabilities and I admit I am hypersensitive to this issue, I worry about things that we do that separate people with disabilities from people without disabilities. They can be very subtle things. Things that those particularly with intellectual disabilities may not really pick up on. Yet those of us without intellectual disabilities if we think about it, know what we are doing.

I think about this when ministries are scheduled at times when no one else from the church is present. That type of ministry conveys that it is all about serving the persons with disabilities (not necessarily a bad thing) but that they have little to offer the rest of the congregation so we needn't have them present with everyone else. If we felt they did have something to offer, we would insist that everyone was together at the same time.

Sometimes we can also treat people in an age inappropriate manner. We interact with them in ways that we as those without intellectual disabilities would likely not tolerate if we were treated that way. Yet because of our perception that they do not understand, we can treat them in that manner and for many, they will not understand what is happening to them.

Age appropriateness should be a critical consideration in any form of ministry. People can be socialized into thinking they are children and accept that treatment. I know of people with disabilities who have been socialized in this manner and are like that. People can also be socialized into thinking they are the age that they are chronologically. I know people who are like that too. They will not tolerate being treated in a way that doesn't respect them as adults. If I were to treat you in a way that doesn't respect you as an adult, according to your age, you would likely be offended. It is my desire that persons with disabilities, whatever their disability might be, would also not be separated, and not be treated in a manner that is not commensurate with the respect that they should receive according to their age.

This is a subtle consideration but very important.