25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act

This coming Sunday we will join the country to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Our own Rev. Jo Claire Hartsig worked at the national level of the UCC with our Disabilities Ministry. She developed an extensive resource called: Any Body, Every Body, Christ’s Body: A Congregational Guide for Becoming Accessible to ALL to help us grow in our understanding of disability. Here are a couple of segments from this amazing resource.

“People with Disabilities make up the largest “special interest” group in the nation (possibly the world!). Tremendous progress has been made from the times when we were completely hidden from society. Now there is legal protection for people who are discriminated against because of disability. Now public school districts are mandated to provide a free and appropriate education for children with disabilities from the age of 3 to 21. The Americans with Disabilities Act, signed in 1990, has improved access and helped educate employers, landlords, builders, architects, medical facilities, and local governments.”
(Any Body, Every Body, Christ’s Body: A Congregational Guide for Becoming Accessible to ALL, p. 25)

Included in this resource, Jo Claire interviewed people on her team about their experiences. In this segment, Bob tells his story:“I compare incurring a disability to entering a foreign culture. We don’t travel there willingly, we don’t understand the language or customs of the natives of this strange land, and we grieve when we discover we’ve lost our return ticket back home to “normal.” But, if you keep your wits about you and look around to gauge the lay of the land before you panic, you may find that a strange sort of grace accompanies a disabling injury or illness.

I was struck by a hit-and-run driver while bicycling in the spring of 1997, incurring a spinal cord injury that left me in a wheelchair. As a parish pastor, I’ve been able to return to my career, but have had to make many subtle adjustments in self-identity. Five years after the injury I took a sabbatical from my pastoral duties to write a book on my journey. The result, “Blindsided by Grace: Entering the World of Disability” (Augsburg Fortress Press), is not only an exploration of the concept of disability as a cultural and social phenomenon, but was a therapeutic tool for me to come to grips with my new body.

Several years ago my wife and I uprooted our children to move to Nicaragua for three years. Our daughter, who was five at the time, arrived in a horrible tantrum, screaming, “I don’t wanna speak Spanish!” But after a few months in her new home, she made friends and took to the new language like a fish to water. When I awoke in the hospital six weeks after my injury I was screaming inside, “I don’t wanna be a cripple!” But, like Kate, after some time getting acclimatized to my new culture, I’m finding the hidden grace in this condition.”

SEE YOU ON SUNDAY to share more stories and insights!

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