View of Disability in Accessibility and Inclusion Ministry (AIM)
Disability is a Social Construct
Variations in how our minds and our bodies work are part of the vast range of human diversity, and contribute to individual uniqueness. Society determines which of these variations are considered “typical” and defines the rest as disabilities. These definitions are fluid over time and across cultures.
Approximately 20% of Americans today live with disabilities. Disabilities may be physical, cognitive, sensory, or psychological, or categorized in other ways [i]. They may be visible or invisible. A person may be born with disabilities or acquire them later in life. Many people have multiple disabilities. Many people do not consider themselves to have a disability, even though their body or mind does not fit within the range defined as “typical.”
Most medical and legal definitions of disability are couched in terms of defects and deficiencies, rather than variation. This perspective can serve to reinforce the social stigma, inequality, isolation, and marginalization experienced by people living with disabilities.
Generally, society is set up to include those who fall into the “typical” range. Those of us who, for whatever reason, fall outside of that range, often find it up to us or our families to create ways to be included.
The AIM Perspective
Accessibility and Inclusion Ministry considers the uniqueness of the individual as a gift to be valued and appreciated by our congregations. AIM Congregations accept a responsibility to counter society’s tendency to make inclusion and accessibility the responsibility of individuals, and instead transform our congregations and our society to be welcoming and inclusive of people of all abilities.
Views of Disability Quotations
- “Persons with disabilities include those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual, or sensory [challenges] which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.” Article 1: Purpose, United Nations (UN) Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities
- Disabilities can be noticeable or “invisible” to others. Barriers that hinder participation can be physical, communication, or attitudinal." Inclusion Handbook: Everybody Belongs, Everybody Serves, Christian Reformed Disability Concerns and Reformed Church in America Disability Concerns
- “Nothing About Us Without Us.” A defining slogan of the disability justice movement.
- [i] See Examples of Ways for Categorizing Disabilities (PDF)