Letters: Accessible Christianity

I wish to thank Susan Windley-Daoust for her article “Beyond the Wheelchair Ramp” (May 2015). As someone born with right-side paralysis in the 1940s, I know the frustration of being thought of as less by the general population. My parents were told that I would never walk and never be able to care for myself, and that I would likely be “retarded.” But my parents did not listen to those warnings and gave me the opportunity for as normal of a life as anyone else. While I have struggled in some ways physically, also becoming a Type 1 diabetic in my teens, I was an athlete long before the Special Olympics came along.

I have been active in ministry since the mid-’80s, after finishing a career as a rehab counselor. I mainly worked in parish ministry, where I encouraged the congregants to welcome all. I decry the fact that churches are exempt from being “accessible,” under ADA regulations, and I have appreciated congregations that go out of their way to make their churches available and welcoming.

I appreciate the author’s insistence that the abled “listen” to those with disabilities, for everyone experiences disability differently. Too often people are much like the “Western Christians,” treating those with disabilities as less, at best. It is unconscionable that 90 percent of people living with disabilities are unchurched. We should always seek to hear the stories of others—all others—and learn from them.

Stephen Nelms
Hartwell, Georgia

 

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July 2015
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