Dealing with Disability in the Church: Third edition of series (Three Perspectives)

By: Daniella Jade Lowe

Dealing with Disability in the Church hasn’t been all that bad for me. First of all, I’d like to start out by saying, I’ve attended church all my life. I love church. I get involved in church services mainly by serving on the Audiovisual/Technical Team. I enjoy this.

While living in Bradford I noticed that their churches have their own private buses to pick up and drop off their members.

Now I’ve got one ‘bone to pick.’ Why are public buses in England expected to be wheelchair accessible but not private buses? Just an observation.

However, whenever I asked to use it instead of taxis, I was told they do not take wheelchairs for liability reasons. Also I noticed the church I first attended, had a wheelchair section for easy access in case of a fire. I also attended a university campus church in Bradford.

On the other hand, while living in Ilkley, there is one church that has a disability ministry for those with intellectual disabilities called the Ark, which meets the first Sunday of every month from 3pm to 6pm. Some other churches may even have Sign Language interpreters for the hearing impaired.

In relation to handling disability, churches should take on The Good Samaritan Approach.

Prayer

I appreciate prayers. I have been asked to be prayed for and gladly accepted such. It can be slightly frustrating when your expectation for a change is so high and it doesn’t come which has discouraged me at times. But I do believe in miracles.

However, I also know someone who has autism of a different persuasion. Her experiences in the church have almost never been positive. Many times, Christians have prayed for her to be healed of autism.

She does not personally want to be “healed” of autism, because she believes that God intentionally allows some people to be born with autism or Down Syndrome for his own good reasons, and that these people are fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God, and perfect just the way they are. They do not need to be healed; God made them like that.

She feels that her autism is an integral part of who she is, and is not a negative thing, but rather a positive one. She does not feel that autism holds her back.

When church people pray for her to be healed of autism, without asking her first whether she wants healing, or despite my objections to what they’re doing, that does not empower me. They are deciding on my behalf what direction they think my life should take, but they do not have that right; it’s my life. People with disabilities deserve to be in control of their own lives.

Instead of being “healed,” all she wants is to be accepted by the church for the peculiar, wonderful, autistic person who she is. She needs acceptance and inclusion.

When people pray for her to be healed of autism, she perceives them to be indirectly saying,

“I want God to change you into a normal person, for my own comfort, because I can’t handle that we have a disabled person in our church. I don’t want to deal with having to include disabilities, so it’s easier if I can just try to heal them instead.”

She fully believes that God does have the power to heal people. But she also believes that when church members wish to pray for a disabled person’s healing, they need to first ask that person whether he or she wants healing or not. If the disabled individual declines the offer, church members need to fully respect this, and not keep pushing healing on the person.

It is good to be content and happy with life. I do agree to some extent. There is also a way of embracing disability without accepting it as if there’s no hope.

In other words exhibit faith, despite the odds! Don’t glorify the problem, glorify the problem solver.

Stating the facts about one’s medical condition isn’t necessarily claiming it but acknowledging that something is different about the way a person functions. We shouldn’t live in denial and shame, especially if people ask genuine questions out of curiosity.

The Stigma around Medical Intervention

Another subject I don’t understand is the notion that surgery or taking medicine isn’t faith. I believe God can heal through medical science. Sometimes medical intervention is part of the process. There is also nothing wrong with prayer and a psychologist, social worker or carers.

Besides, faith without works is dead. I also notice that people tend to judge by appearances. I’m not looking for pity but inclusion.

Wheelchair Accessibility: Functioning in Dysfunction

Some churches in England have a health and safety policy where they have designated seating for the physically challenged. They’re also wheelchair accessible for the most part too.

Wheelchair Accessibility and mobility issues are just some of the problems that the physically challenged face. Access alleviates the amount of limitations and restrictions on wheelchair users. Failing to ensure wheelchair accessibility is neglecting to provide reasonable adjustments. It is like functioning in dysfunction.

I get really annoyed with drivers who park across dropped kerbs. Dropped kerbs are meant to make it easy for wheelchairs to enter and exit sidewalks. I think that drivers should either be fined or vehicles towed. Alternatively, if the church building isn’t wheelchair accessible, there is the option of watching services online, but then the problem with that is, one can’t mix and mingle with other believers. I suppose this will always be an issue depending on where one lives. There are many other issues that this subject can cover but this video should do the job. Why should your church be Disability Friendly?

2 thoughts on “Dealing with Disability in the Church: Third edition of series (Three Perspectives)

  1. Dear Daniella-Jade,
    I am curious; I know that you have been prayed over to be healed, is that something you wanted or was it done against your wishes? You are an amazing person and I was reading your blog about the person with autism being prayed for for healing who didn’t necessarily want it. What are your personal feelings on it for you?

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