Today (December 3rd) is, as the title suggests, the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Like so many such days, it is quite likely to miss the radar of many, so I thought I would do my little bit for the cause!
Let me start with an absolute statement: we are all 'persons with disabilities'. However, those of us (and I am often guilty of this) who regard ourselves as 'able-bodied' feel distinct from 'those people' with perhaps more apparent ability issues. Inner finger-pointing is, I think, something that we have all been guilty of at least once.
I am involved, as you may know, with the Diocesan Council who serves the deaf, deafened and hard of hearing communities. I have a fair level of British Sign Language, and an awareness of life for those communities. I think that, in the main, they do ok existing in the 'hearing world', and would likely kick me from drawing the distinction between 'them and us' (there, I did it again). It seems that for the deaf community, church life is among the greater factors of exclusion [there are 2000 deaf, deafened and HoH Christians in this diocese alone, most of whom do not and cannot go to church - and why would they?].
I know of no churches who offer interpretation for their services, even to the level of subtitling. Yes, most have Loop systems, and that is great - but not a world of use for the profoundly deaf. Looking beyond the deaf community, I think that it would be difficult to attend most of our churches without sight, without the use of limbs, let alone some of the other factors that limit ability such as behavioural conditions, and so on.
Churches are rather lovely for the reasonably able-bodied; tickety-boo if you can see, hear and walk. Often, our old and most beautiful temples are the culprit - but that doesn't make it alright. Christians will fight tooth and nail to ensure that a Patagonian yak farmer gets a fair price for his yak-juice, but seem to miss the point when, for example, my mate Rob, a deaf man, finds it impossible to worship his God with others in the county where he lives. Perhaps a designated day that could in fact apply to every one of us could encourage us to look with honesty and candour at the 'service' our churches offer.
...then do something about it, perhaps?