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Friday, July 25, 2014

Ingredients for Success

Highlights from the July 15, 2014 Huffington Post article entitled "7 Ways Congregations Can Embrace People with Disabilities".

In a major study conducted by the University of Kentucky and Vanderbilt University, only 43% of the parents of children with special needs surveyed described their religious community as supportive and more than a third changed their place of worship because their child had not been included or welcomed.

The seven ways include:
  • Communication - Provide a resouce person to listen to the needs of the person with a disability and their family to learn how they can work together toward full inclusion.
  • Accessiblity - To the extent possible, meet the physical needs of the individual.
  • Support - Provide an aide or peer assistant to participate in religious education, small group ministry, etc.
  • Leadership - Faith communities where leaders are committed to including people with disabilities were more welcoming, offered greater opportunities for people to share their gifts and were more physically accessible.
  • Participation - Invite people with disabilities to sit on boards and committees and to take more visible roles in congregational life.
  • Education - Congregations that educate their members on disability issues are more welcoming and better able to integrate people with special needs into the life of the community.
  • Love - Parents of children with special needs who experienced love and acceptance reported their congregations were sources of great strength and support.
With respect,

Mark Bernstein
Congregational Life Consultant, Central East Regional Group
UUA Liaison to Equual Access


Elz Curtiss said...

This is all well and good, but given the constant struggle to find, train, and support teachers and classroom helpers, these extra folks can be hard to come by. Ironically, it might be harder in a mid-sized congregation, than in either a large one -- with an overflow of regular worshippers -- or a small one -- where everyone feels ocmfortable doing about six different things every Sunday.

Mark Bernstein said...

Thanks for your comment. I agree that this adds to the difficulty in providing meaningful and inclusive religious education. Something worth doing is never easy.