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Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Beginning of a Beautiful Friendship

The Disability/Ability Action Program is under way and so Unitarian Universalism begins a new chapter in its commitment to inclusion of people who historically have been on the margins of society.  A collaboration of Equual Access and the UUA, this groundbreaking program challenges congregations to welcome, embrace, support and integrate people with disabilities and their families into congregational life. 

Congregations seeking certification will conduct an assessment of accessibility and inclusion of people with disabilities, create an action plan of worship, workshops and projects, have that plan approved by the Disability/Ability Certification Committee and then implement the plan. When the plan has been fully implemented, the congregation can vote to be recognized as a congregation with a Disability/Ability Action Program certificate.  The program is designed to meet the needs of the entire congregation and includes workshops and activities for children and youth as well as adults.

Ten congregations are currently participating in the two year pilot project:

First Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Ann Arbor, MI
First Parish in Bedford, MA
The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Buffalo, NY
First Parish Cambridge, MA
First Parish Kingston, MA
The Unitarian Universalist Church of Las Cruses, NM
The Unitarian Universalist Congregation in McHenry, IL
The Congregational Society, Unitarian Universalist Peterborough, NH 
Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Raleigh, NC
First Unitarian Universalist Church of Rochester, MN

The plan is for the project to be offered to congregations around the country in 2015 to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Beautiful friendship, indeed.

For more information about the Disability/Ability Action Program, contact me at or Reverend Barbara Meyers at

With respect,

Mark Bernstein

Consultant, Central East Regional Group and UUA Liaison to Equual Access


Anonymous said...

I wish you all the best; this is a big task. When my son (who has Asperger's) was grade-school age, we finally had to give up on Sunday school. The teachers really couldn't handle him, and I felt bad that their efforts to do so were robbing the other children in the class of a rewarding church-school experience. To this day, I don't really know what we all could have done to make it work for both my son and the other kids.

Anonymous said...

Oh, Anonymous, my heart goes out to you and your son! Since my family also has people who may have Asperger's, I would like to say a word as a former DRE. In a thriving post I held briefly, one class group was smaller than any other. I checked past registrations: they started with the same approximate number, but had many more drop-outs. I called them, and all cited what they called "disruptive" behaviors from a child who probably had Asperger's or was somewhere on that part of the spectrum. So I attempted to set up an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) -- which caused the mother to feel I was labeling her son as a trouble-maker, rather than allowing for his differences. It was a horrible impasse, and as a person who myself had been through the same kinds of learning disabilities, a bitter irony.

What I call "Disabilities Under the Skin" are the nothing more than the different ways we learn, relate, and express. So long as we insist on warehouse-style RE -- by birth date, no less! -- we will remain a narrow religious community, starving ourselves of many gifts God has tried to give us, repeating the cycle of learning, relating, and expressing according to one or two particular neurological patterns.