For my house shall be a house of prayer for all people. Isaiah 56:6
This We Believe!
If there are barriers to attitude, communication or architecture for anyone, the foundation of the House of God is weakened for all. Every person is created by God, each is loved by God, and none should be diminished by another, even by unintentional actions or words.
This We Know!
Accidents, diseases, and birth conditions occur that demand dramatic and taxing changes. Families experience intense disappointment, loss, financial burden and anger. Fortunately, for some families the resulting responsibilities bring out new talent, compassion and vision. Never forget: a disabling condition may be an automobile ride, one unsteady stepladder, one overheated stove, one high fever or one stroke away. If we don’t have limiting conditions now, there is a high probability we will as we age. For this reason we need to include senior citizens when we are considering the needs of persons with disabilities.
Many of us are uncomfortable with people who look and act “different.” As a result, many people with disabilities are often ignored, isolated or rejected. When our response grows out of pity, the person with the disability feels patronized and diminished and does not necessarily react with gratitude. How much better to regard someone primarily as a person with abilities, and only secondarily as someone who may need assistance to use those abilities!
Some of us still feel uncomfortable around people with disabilities because we fear doing or saying something wrong. Listed below are some suggestions that might help to improve that situation.
• Treat all people as you want to be treated. Relax when communicating; let common courtesy be your guide. If misunderstandings arise, don’t be afraid to repeat yourself or ask others to repeat themselves.
• When referring to a person with a disability, remember the person is more important than the disability so mention the person first and then the disability e.g., a person who is blind not a blind person.
• Encourage participation; personally invite others to share their gifts.
• Offer assistance by asking what is needed; don’t insist if your offer is declined.
• Allow people to do things for themselves, even if it takes longer or results in mistakes.
• Be patient and flexible with time schedules; allow time to attend to personal needs.
• Offer to read written information — such as the menu, merchandise labels or bank statements — to customers who are blind. Count out change so that they know which bills are which.
• Respect the individual’s personal space and auxiliary aids; do not lean against a wheelchair, do not pet a service animal, do not grab an arm to guide, and do not move canes, crutches or walkers out of the reach of the person who uses them.
• Always speak directly to a person, not his or her companion or interpreter. Talk naturally to persons who are non-verbal or use communication devices.
• Recognize and remove obvious barriers. For example, people who are blind need drivers to travel and alternative formats of printed materials.
Above all, remember disability is just one of many qualities that dignify every human life. Despite individual differences we are more alike than different. Look for commonalities, your comfort level and positive interactions. Then parish vitality will increase.
Some parishes have appointed a parish advocate whose ministry is to welcome parishioners with disabilities as well as their families and to seek out ways to meet their needs and be fully included in the life of the parish. For those parishes that have not yet appointed a parish advocate, contact the Office of Disability Ministry (315-470-1460) for support and guidance in establishing this important ministry at your church. The goal of the Disabilities Advisory Board is to assist every parish in the diocese to establish this vital ministry.
Inclusion in Parish Life
Are you a parishioner who has a disability and would like to participate more fully in parish life? We are willing to accommodate your special needs. Please contact us and we can discuss the options. We are open to all ideas to make this a house of prayer for all people!
“It is not enough to merely affirm the rights of people with disabilities. We must actively work to make them real in the fabric of modern society…the Church must work to increase the public’s sensitivity toward the needs of people with disabilities and support their rightful demand for Justice.” (U.S. Catholic Bishops)
Join us on Sept. 12 at 9:45 a.m. at the Cathedral of the Immaculate when Bishop Robert Cunningham celebrates the annual Disabilities Awareness Mass.