A story over at Disaboom written by a rec therapist who married a female paraplegic caught my attention this morning after yet another lively discussion in the Church and Social Media group on twitter last evening at the 9pm EST weekly Tuesday chat. (#ChSocM) We discussed Valentine's Day, love and how churches can use social media to address relationship and faith issues, among other things.
One of the things I noticed was, although folks spoke about meeting the needs of seniors, widows, singles and divorcees, there was little, if anything, said about those with disabilities or illness and issues and needs they may want addressed in a pastoral context or via social media on relationship issues. I'm also noticing how absent folks with disabilities are in the group and am posting about it hoping that more show up. (That's #ChSocM Tuesday evenings 9PM EST in case you didn't catch it). After all, the discussion reflects the views of those who are participating. I'm thinking that those involved in disability ministries have an opportunity to make an important impact.
Social media is just a tool. How can people create content without information or hearing peoples' experiences?
I know many disabled folks who marry. I know folks with illnesses, chronic or short term, who date, fall in love and are married. Disabled folks, whether single or married, face the same issues - and a few others - which might be addressed in some faith congregations by both clergy and lay people, but here's the thing- in some faith congregations folks may not be used to being around disabled folks and do things such as treating young people with disabilities like seniors or asexual. That's just an example- I've heard of other experiences such as being greeted with comments like "You're able to have sex?"
Getting back to the para and the rec therapist- he talks about how his cultural view of disabled folks changed by being around them, including seeing the person, not the mobility equipment. This led to dating and then taking his future bride home to meet the parents and marriage. I've heard this described before by others - how being around disabled folks changes perceptions. Makes sense, doesn't it, just as with any other group of people , that meeting individuals carries an opportunity to change assumptions. No matter how much we throw around "person first" language or phrases like "see past the disability", the bottom line is that until people are included, no one gets to know each other. That kind of learning is experiential.
For those congregations and faith organizations that are inclusive and do a great job treating members of their congregation, disabled and nondisabled, with care and love and are able to address their needs, I say congratulations. Show up at #ChSocM and share what you know. For those that have a way to go, I write this hoping that it begins a discussion. There are those in #ChSocM who have approached me with questions already about how their faith communities could be more inclusive. I'd like to see more participation by those in disability ministries and disabled folks.
Once again, that's #ChSocM Tuesday evenings 9PM EST in case you didn't catch it. See you.