Disability Ministries Committee logo using  stylized person standing and another seated in wheelchair whose arms form the horizontal arm of the cross between them.  Logo says Making the Rough Places Smooth - Removing Barriers Is. 40_4
A partner ministry of The General Commission on Religion and Race

Summer 2020         
Vol. 10, #2
Red and blue logo sating ADA 30_ the years 1990-202o are in a circle of red stars_ under that the words Americans with Disabilities Act Celebrate the ADA_ July 26_ 2020
Credit: ADA National Network (adata.org)


of the

United Methodist

 Disability Connection

Greetings in Christ! 

So much has happened in the US and around the world since we were last in contact with you!  We pray that you are engaging in ministry where God calls you, while taking care of your body, spirit, and relationships.  

This issue's focus is on the changes that have, and have not, taken place in the church and society in the 30 years since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  You will be pleased to know that although many denominations fought the legislation, the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society hosted weekly coalition meetings and actively participated in the development of the ADA.  Celebrate by attending one or more of the ADA events taking place this week, and use the ADA worship resources offered - see Resources and Upcoming Webinars sections below. 

The ADA was passed in the hope that such a law would end discrimination against people with disabilities.  That this is not the case is sadly shown in the increasing criminalization of children and adults with mental health and other disabilities, especially disabled Black and brown people.  We start this issue with a look at intersectionality of race and disability, a piece of the racism puzzle that does not always get equal coverage.  

The DMC develops resources  to improve disability awareness with a goal of full participation of people with disabilities in our communities and churches.  To that end we are excited to share the brand-new Ableism Toolkit that you can download and use as a learning opportunity.  DMC members and friends contributed to the documents to ensure that they reflect the voices of people with lived experience of disability.  We would love to get feedback on the uses you find for the Toolkit.  Stay tuned for more resources to come!

Deaconess Lynn Swedberg, Editor  
In This Issue
* At the Intersection of Racism and Disability
* Looking Back on 30 Years of the ADA: Q & A
* Ableism: Dismantling Attitudes
* The ADA and the UMC
* Upcoming Webinars and Courses
Quick Links
At the Intersection of Racism and Disability
Many of us are finding socially distanced ways to speak out for justice and work for an end to the killing of unarmed black men and women by police. Did you know that 30 to 80 percent of those killed were persons with some type of disability? The exact number is unknown because no one tracks these statistics. There are instances of Black Deaf men being shot because they didn't hear the verbal command to stop. At least a quarter of victims were experiencing a psychiatric crisis and unable to communicate their needs. If one's disability causes slower or atypical speech or reactions, a person is at a higher risk of being injured or killed. 1, 2, 3, 4 5

Black and disabled or Deaf people find themselves doubly disadvantaged, a phenomenon known as intersectionality. United Methodist Women offers an on-line study based on the book So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo. The author underscores the need to address all isms in the fight to eradicate racism, and does a great job of interweaving the ways that ableism and racism intersect. 

Helping eliminate the School to Prison Pipeline is another United Methodist Women priority. Black children are disproportionately punished, suspended, arrested, and incarcerated, and the rates for children with disabilities are even higher. As we work for racial justice and systemic change, we need to keep children and adults of color with 
Pink Black Lives Matter poster with the following words inserted after black on different lines_ deaf_ autistic_ neurodivergent_ chronically ill_ blind_ mad_ dyslexic_ wheelchair user_ disabled_ followed by All Black Lives Matter
            Poster by Tasha Fierce,                all rights reserved 7
disabilities in the forefront of our discussions and actions. 

If you plan a protest event, make sure it is accessible as was a recent Milwaukee march. The route was level and the march led by wheelchair users who set the pace. Sign language interpreters were stationed throughout, and some leaders wore masks with transparent windows that allowed for lip-reading. Ear plugs were available at rest stations for people sensitive to the noise level.  6

If the anti-racism materials you are using do not incorporate disability, please supplement them with some of the resources listed below. Examine the language used to make sure it is not ableist, such as that in a recently published racism liturgy that asks forgiveness for being deaf! Together we can help dismantle racism without overlooking or invoking ableism.

Looking Back on 30 Years of the ADA
Q & A interview participants:
EM: Rev. Dr. Evy McDonald, Associate Pastor, St. Mark's UMC, Desert SW Conference
JD: Rev. Janine DeLaunay, retired pastor in the Oregon-Idaho Conference
TV: Tim Vermande, seminary graduate and communications specialist for the DisAbility Ministries committee, Indiana Conference

Q: What was it like growing up and living with a disability before the ADA?
JD: My mother had to sit in the school superintendent's office for days to get my sister (who is also blind) and I admitted to kindergarten in our neighborhood school. My mother learned Braille to adapt my textbooks - even a Spanish text one year!
Smiling woman with short gray hair and glasses
Evy McDonald

EM: I was not allowed to participate in church camp with my friends for fear that I would get hurt, and because they had never had a camper with a disability before. In high school there was no thought that anyone would change anything because I wore a brace and had to get from the 3rd floor to the 1st floor.
TV: My parents fought tooth and nail to get me in a "regular" school - the school wanted me in remedial education. I was often the only student with a disability. In college there were a few parking spaces but they were only for wheelchair users, so I often had to park several blocks away since I didn't use a wheelchair yet.

Q: What did passage of the ADA mean to you?
TV: There was hope in having a legal authority available, similar to the civil rights laws for people of color.
JD: I felt a lot bolder when I asked for accommodations - it didn't feel unreasonable because there was now a law and information on making reasonable accommodations. I worked for the state and they bought my first refreshable Braille display device. The ADA made the emphasis not on the person getting cured but on society recognizing and valuing the person with a disability for who they are.
Woman with light hair  in pastor_s robe and stole holding a cane and tambourine with a refreshable Braille display strap over her shouldler
Janine DeLaunay

Q: What positive changes have you seen because of the ADA?
EM: There have been a lot of wonderful structural changes like the fact that automatic door openers are now commonplace.
JD: Public transit with audible stop callouts have made a huge difference.
TV: Paratransit or buses with lifts didn't exist before, and there were no curb cuts in the sidewalks. As a professor, I see many students with service dogs or sign language interpreters, others using power wheelchairs or receiving extra time for tests, all doing quite well with their accommodations. It helps that there is now a designated person or department to coordinate the services.

Q: Churches were exempt from the ADA - have you seen changes despite that?
Smiling balding man with glasses and light beard with striped shirt and tie
Tim Vermande
TV: The UMC has been among the forefront in stating that our churches should be at least ADA compliant. We have learned that having loud worship isn't always good and are more aware of autistic people who may prefer a quieter worship environment.
JD: Congregations have assisted listening devices, large print bulletins and hymnals, lever doorknobs, even some chancel ramps - and an awareness about why it is important to do that.
EM: My church lowered their welcome center counter, redesigned an entire bathroom, installed better lighting, fixed the sidewalk, and installed automatic door openers to the sanctuary, fellowship hall, and restrooms.

Q: What has not changed?
EM: You still have major district and conference meetings scheduled in inaccessible spaces, with no one questioning that choice. Parents still tell their children not to look or ask about disability, teaching them that disability is a bad thing.
JD: In restaurants there are so few Braille menus I don't ask. In the church we haven't embraced employment of clergy and staff with disabilities. Businesses still don't comply as there are few, if any, risks or adverse consequences.
TV: Some churches are still stuck in ableist theology that includes faith healing, or disability being either a blessing or a curse for sin. Candidates for ministry or a job who have a disability often do not get invited to proceed. They just sort of lose your application.

Q: Where do we go from here?
TV: I have hope that universal design will become more common, and that technology will assist to level the playing field. As disabled people get out more and gain visibility I also hope that this will bring pressure to improve.
EM: I'm trying to educate churches on the difference between accessibility and just making adaptations. Technology can help overcome space limitations, like having Zoom in another part of the building as long as people with disabilities are with a group of others.
JD: Right now is the time to come together and say Black lives matter, loudly and clearly! If we all focus on justice, not rights, there is a sense of solidarity that is very powerful. As we deal with racism, I think that other things will change. 

Dismantling Attitudes that the ADA Has Not Eradicated
The ADA was designed to eliminate the discrimination that people with disabilities experience, but it has not yet achieved that goal. Janine stated, "You have to recognize that rights-based legislation only gets us part of the way there - it doesn't change how people think or get at the fundamental isms that divide us." Evy's experience is that the ADA "hasn't affected people's perceptions of people with disabilities. Even after 30 years I still get the body scan and people who can't believe I'm a pastor and a nurse. People say, 'I haven't even noticed that you are disabled!' which means they aren't looking at or accepting me with my limitations."

The UMC Annual Accessibility Audit for Churches has a section about attitudes that only scratches the surface. Until now our website lacked specific resources to help churches move to the next level in disability awareness. We have created an Ableism Toolkit with a
Board asks What if we were a church who practice come as you are_ and includes photos of people of different ages_ races_ and with different disabilities
Rose City Park (OR-ID) bulletin board
two-part core article  Understanding Ableism, which provides a background and theological reflection, and a number of new documents, some of which are linked in the Resources section below. See the Ableism and Disability Glossary for definitions of ableism and other terms that may be new to you. We defined ableism as "a system of attitudes, beliefs, and actions that communicates that persons with disabilities have less value than non-disabled persons. Ableism assumes that 'normal' is a valid social construct." 
The Able Privilege document helps us understand how the world is designed for non-disabled people, and how many daily activities and experiences an able-bodied person takes for granted. For instance, many of us without disabilities assume that if we are invited to visit a friend, we will be able to safely enter the home and use the restroom if we need it. We assume we can sit with friends or family anywhere we choose at an event, and that we can evacuate quickly in case of an emergency. Most of us drive and can park in any available parking space, so we can easily change our schedules without advance planning. 
Ableist Microaggressions are "casual insults and offensive actions experienced daily by people in an oppressed category including people with disabilities." These include having random strangers ask what is wrong with you, pray for you or try to assist you without permission to do so, and offer unsolicited medical advice. They also include treating adults like children, labeling involvement in typical activities as inspirational, and dismissing what the person with a disability says about their experiences. 
While able privilege and microaggressions are different than racial privilege and
Screen welcome says We are in solidarity with our neighbors Muslim Jewish LBGTQ People of Color Immigrants People with Disabilities First Nation People All Are Welcome Here
First UMC Eugene (OR-ID)
microaggressions, perhaps learning about ableism will help increase awareness of racism. Please take time to look through the whole Toolkit and find ways to use it for Disability Awareness Sunday, in a church school class, or for a United Methodist Women circle meeting. The best way to learn is to invite a person with a disability to share, and then listen to what is shared without getting defensive. Other ideas are found in the tip sheets Dos and Don't for the Disability Ally and Approaches to Dismantling Ableism. See the Ableism Resources in the Resources section below for links to these and more.
The ADA and the UMC
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 was the first comprehensive legislation that guaranteed the civil rights of persons with disabilities not only in federally-funded programs, but in public entities. Earlier laws had required a public school education for all children (1975) and accessible construction of federal buildings (1968). A coalition of disability organizations created the document Towards Independence (1986) that was adapted and eventually introduced to Congress in 1988. 1 During the long period between introduction and passage
A wedge shaped 5 story building with trees and shrubs on either side
The United Methodist Building,    Washington, D.C.
in 1990, coalition members including General Board of Church and Society staff met weekly in the United Methodist Building to work out modifications and details.   2  One compromise was that religious entities were excluded from all except the employer requirements, and then only if they have more than 15 employees. 3

The ADA was born from the realization that people with disabilities faced discrimination in all aspects of their lives, and were "severely disadvantaged socially, vocationally, economically, and educationally."4 The intent of the law was to provide an equal opportunity for people with disabilities to participate in all aspects of society. The ADA mandate called for providing reasonable accommodations of people with disabilities when they faced barriers of physical accessibility, employment, communication, and services. 

Prior to 1990, the UMC had already enacted legislation stating that people with disabilities were to be considered for the ordained ministry and were to be involved in all levels of church leadership. The Social Principles included a paragraph on the rights of persons with disabilities. New church construction and remodeling projects needed to have accessible parking, means of entrance, and seating. 

Subsequent General Conferences passed additional legislation, often submitted by the
6 women and 9 men_ most wearing DMC t-shirts_ 2 in wheelchairs and one with a guide dog_ pose in front of library stacks
The DMC that passed legislation in 2012
DisAbility Ministry Committee or earlier versions of the DMC. Called to Inclusiveness (¶140) states "A further mark of inclusiveness is the setting of church activities in facilities accessible to persons with disabilities" 5 and calls for seminaries to continue working towards full accessibility. The non-discrimination policies section (¶716) addresses employment of people with disabilities and the need for all church events to be accessible. Local churches are required to complete an annual accessibility audit (¶2533.6) and make plans for elimination of the barriers they find. Construction and remodeling now require an accessibility plan that includes the chancel. New parsonages should be at least partially accessible (¶2544).

Our Book of Resolutions, while aspirational, issues a strong call in #3002 for our churches and agencies to follow the model of Jesus in ministering with people with disabilities by implementing the provisions of the ADA and its global counterpart the United Nations' Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities. 6  Resolution #3302 offers additional guidance for accessibility, awareness, and advocacy. Spurred on by the ADA we have made progress as a denomination, but we still have much work to do.
Black, Disabled, and Proud: College Students with Disabilities - Black Lives Matter and Disability resource page 

Disability Solidarity: Completing the "Vision for Black Lives" - statement by The Harriet Tubman Collective

National Black Disability Coalition - Check out the articles under the Glossary tab

AMD's Vows to Racial Justice - UM Association of Ministers with Disabilities 

We Can't Breathe - The Deaf and Disabled Margin of Police Brutality Training Toolkit and Video, National Council on Independent Living 

ADA 30th Anniversary Toolkit   - Watch a short video, learn more about the ADA and its history

Being Healers in our Community: Celebrating 30 years of the Americans with Disabilities Act: A Worship Planning Kit - Word document for download  developed by the UM  Association of Ministers with Disabilities. 

Bishop's Blog: Celebrating 30 Years of the ADA  - Thoughts and a liturgy from Bishop Peggy Johnson, Eastern Pennsylvania and Peninsula-Delaware Conferences. 

Celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the ADA - AAPD offers a fact sheet, toolkits, and links to events.

ABLEISM RESOURCES - brand new from the DMC!
Understanding Ableism article with links to the following resources and more
WORD VERSIONS OF ALL DOCUMENTS are available in the Ableism section on the Theology and Disability Ministry page.                                                  

Upcoming Webinars and Courses

July 21, 2020
Sponsored by Great Lakes ADA Center. TO REGISTER

July 22, 2020 -  Bishop Peggy Johnson joins panelists Rabbi David Saperstein and Namira Islam Anani
Sponsored by the Interfaith Disability Advocacy Coalition and Church & Society of the UMC.   TO REGISTER

  • July 23, 2020 - Rev. Dr. Tom Hudspeth: "Deaf Ministry & Mission"
  • August 27, 2020 - Rev. Justin Hancock & Rev. Lisa Hancock: "Disability Theology"
  • September 25, 2020 - Rev. Ramsey Patton: "Theology of Accessible Worship" 
Sponsored by SMU: Perkins Theological School. TO REGISTER

July 25, 2020 - Esther Choi, MDiv, Rosalind McKelvey, and Rev. Leo Yates, Jr.
Sponsored by the UM Committee on Deaf and Hard of Hearing Ministries

July 26, 2020 - online Facebook Watch Party; Panel moderator: Bishop Peggy Johnson, speakers Rev. Hank Jenkins, Rev. Russell Ewell, and Kasey Kelley.  
Hosted by UM Association of Ministers with Disabilities.  Check the flyer for more information.  Captioning and ASL interpreter provided.  Recording will be available.

IFD Certification in Ministry with People with Disabilities

The second cohort is starting this August, taught by  Harriet Wilkin, MDiv.
August 24-October 2, 2020 - The first course in the 4-course series is IFDC 1210 - Disability, The Bible, and the Church, 3 CEUs.                                                
Sponsored by BeADisciple.com. TO REGISTER
Thanks for sticking with us as we look at some tough topics.  Thanks for helping us change the culture of the church to bring about the day when all of God's children will find welcome and belonging in our congregations!  

DisAbility Ministries Committee of The United Methodist Church