Disability News Service, Resources, Diversity, Americans with Disabilities Act; Local and National.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Disability and Inclusion in the Archdiocese of Chicago, Survey Results Available

In July of 2015 communities around the United States commemorated the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The law, signed by President George H.W. Bush in 1990, was enacted to “prohibit discrimination and guarantee that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else to participate in the mainstream of American life.” Since its passage doors have been opened to improve opportunities for employment, access, and overall quality of life for individuals living with disabilities. Actions taken by governments and private businesses have made the world more accessible, allowing greater participation for all in everyday life. Religious entities and areas of worship are exempted from the ADA, but the spirit and message of inclusion still morally applies. Twelve years prior to this historic legislation, in 1978, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops issued the Pastoral Statement of the U.S. Catholic Bishops on Persons with Disabilities in order “to promote accessibility of mind and heart, so that all persons with disabilities may be welcomed at worship and at every level of service as full members of the Body of Christ.” This statement was re-affirmed in 1988 and 1998, and continues to serve as basis for the call to create an environment where all—regardless of physical or intellectual ability—may participate fully in the Mass.

Saint John Cantius Church, Chicago
While both the Pastoral Statement and the ADA have sparked great progress, much work remains to be done—specifically with respect to ensuring full participation in Church life. Leaders of faith-based communities need to ask if places of worship are truly open for all who choose to participate. This is especially important as diversity within a place of worship creates opportunities to combine the gifts and talents of an entire congregation in order to strengthen these communities of faith. Individuals with disabilities experience a multitude of barriers to full participation within their chosen worship place. With medical advances, armed conflict, and an aging population, the number of individuals with physical and non-visible disabilities grows each day. It is imperative to create a worship environment which fosters inclusivity for individuals with disabilities in order to allow all to benefit from widespread diversity, full participation, and a meaningful relationship with God.

As part of the 2015 celebration of the ADA, the Archdiocese of Chicago partnered with Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital to better understand the current state of disability awareness and inclusion across places of worship in the Chicagoland area. The goals of this effort were to understand what gaps may exist, and to identify opportunities to increase access for people with disabilities who wish to access places of worship.

For my house shall be a house of prayer for all people.” (Is 56:7)


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