It’s difficult to find a general definition of disability because there are many forms of disabilities. It’s helpful to not focus on the functional limitations of others, as this can be hurtful and humiliating. Instead, we should focus on environments, systems of support and the exercise of rights that a person may or may not have access to.
There are a broad range of disabilities—both physical and mental—that can impact a person’s sense of self worth and their involvement with and contributions to a community.
These can include:
- Developmental, learning and other physical disabilities, such as hearing, sight, speech, agility, and mobility disabilities.
- Mental illnesses such as bipolar disorders, schizophrenia and depression. There are people who seem to function like others but deal privately with profound challenges because they are living with “hidden” disabilities.
- Chronic conditions such as cancer, epilepsy, cerebral palsy, spinal bifida, cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, arthritis, heart disease and others.
It’s clear that many people who identify as having either physical or mental health disabilities can easily experience prejudice and marginalization. At DMC, we encourage congregations to think beyond charity to include justice and advocacy as part of their response to those with disabilities. There are many resources available to help Christians find ways to reconcile relationships with the disabled.
- Disability Concerns, a ministry of the Christian Reformed Church that equips people in churches, whether or not they have disabilities, to serve God together in ministry. Their Inclusion Handbook is an extremely practical resource for churches.
- Additionally, check out Disability Concerns’ resource list, which has a wealth of resources organized by category.
- Friendship Ministries, a not-for-profit organization that exists to help churches and organizations around the world share God’s love with people who have an intellectual disability.
- L’Arche Canada, an organization that exists to bring people with and without intellectual disabilities together to share life and daytime activities in family-like settings that are integrated into local neighbourhoods.
- Shalem Mental Health Network, a Christian non-profit organization that offers individual, couple and family counseling as well as resources for faith communities to better embrace the needs of people who struggle with mental illness.
- Christian Horizons, an organization that offers worldwide services for persons with exceptional needs, so that they can belong to communities in which their God-given gifts are valued and respected.
Other Online Resources (blogs, vlogs, documentaries, etc.):
- The Disability Concerns blog
- The Marvelous Creator, a blog that highlights the wonderful works of God displayed in his creation, especially in people affected by disability.
- The Grace Alliance Blog, a blog specifically written for Christians working through mental illness.
- Notable, a short documentary that looks at questions surrounding Christianity and how it intersects with those with disabilities.
Books (with amazon.ca links):
- Living Gently in a Violent World: The Prophetic Witness of Weakness by Stanley Hauerwas and Jean Vanier
- A Vulnerable Communion: A Theology of Disability and Hospitality by Thomas E. Reynolds
- Grace for the Afflicted: A Clinical and Biblical Perspective on Mental Illness by Matthew S. Stanford
- Troubled Minds: Mental Illness and the Church’s Mission by Amy Simpson
- Darkness is my Only Companion: A Christian Response to Mental Illness by Kathryn Greene-McCreight