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ADA and Joni


What is your local church doing?

(CNN) — As I sat on the White House lawn 20 years ago and watched President George H.W. Bush sign the Americans with Disabilities Act into law, I knew it was a grand day for disabled people. However, I also knew that we still had a long way to go.

Much like the civil rights legislation of the ’60s, I recognized that the president’s signature might change physical accommodations, but it would take more than that to change hearts and minds.


While I could now roll my wheelchair into buildings with ease, I still had a hard time getting people to look me in the eye and see me as a person rather than a condition. Even today, 20 years later, my wheelchair still makes people uncomfortable.

Why is that? For the most part, able-bodied, “healthy” people still fear disability. As a nation, we treat disabled people more equally and humanely than any country in the world. However, most Americans, when they encounter a disabled person, first think of themselves, “I hope that never happens to me.”

To me, that says we still have a long way to go toward recognizing people as people, no matter what they look, act, walk — or don’t walk — like.

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posted July 26, 2010 at 5:36 pm

Amen! I often think to myself, “They’re just (fill in the blank), not an alien!” when I see how the disabled are treated or not treated by people.

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posted July 26, 2010 at 11:41 pm

Excellent point about whether our churches are welcoming places for everyone.
As a side note, though, the ADA has really hurt employment of disabled Americans. It’s essentially made them un-fireable, which (to most employers) also means un-hireable.
It’s been covered many times in multiple places, but for readability you can’t beat Freakonomics.

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Bob Smallman

posted July 27, 2010 at 12:40 am

In our last addition we installed an elevator — what a wonderful addition! It means our entire building is accessible for the elderly and those with physical disabilities.
It’s not unusual for someone who is in the building to say something like, “I bet you HAD to put that elevator in, didn’t you?” To which I reply, “No, we didn’t; but it’s been nothing but a blessing for our people.” Modern elevators are less expensive than people might think — especially in new construction.

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posted July 27, 2010 at 9:37 am

During a good deal of the year if incense were used in a service I would get up and leave as having to go to emerg is not fun. Thankfully our church does not use incense, discourages wearing of perfume and has gluten free communion wafers available as otherwise I would be excommunicated.
Dave W

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posted July 27, 2010 at 5:07 pm

I remember once in the corporate world, a co-worker I had known for several years but never met in person (we were scattered around the US and world) called me and thanked me for the way I dealt with him.
Turns out he was legally blind and in a wheelchair with MS. In the office, people avoided him because they didn’t know what to say. In the virtual world, he had no handicaps and he was just another human being to me.
There are a lot of implications for the cyber-church here. On the internet, all the bias that comes with a person’s appearance is gone, whether it be “in” church, school or work.

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