Disability is something which sooner or later impacts on all of us. I’ve never subscribed to the view that we’re all disabled and therefore we’re all on the same outing together. My bus is fully accessible for a start. Yours may be able to cope with more variable terrain. That argument doesn’t have genuine traction. Clearly, the majority of people, although not
physically and mentally perfect, have a capacity to negotiate, despite minor irritations, a world geared to non-disabled wants. They can choose to be as visible or as anonymous as they like.
In the case of a disabled person this is blatantly not the case, whether it is having to attract the attention of a shop assistant outside a shop with a step if you’re a wheelchair user, or enduring verbal abuse and bullying because of a mental health issue, the individual is marked out. The same is true for people with hidden disabilities. Part of their burden and pray, it is sometimes a privilege is to explain why they don’t do something neuro-typically or are asking a complete stranger what a bus number is.
It is an unusual person who lives their entire life without a serious and life changing experience of disability. The few blessed with exceptional genes who die in their sleep aged 100 after climbing Mount Everest will have to connect through their immeasurable empathetic powers alone. You know you can do it.
For the rest of us, at some point we may well experience debilitation. Whether we are a confessional Christian or someone who adheres broadly to an idea of walking lightly on the earth and doing no harm, we should still be concerned about how we wish to be treated, understood and empowered when we experience major life transitions.
These days many disabling states are temporary and treatable. Still some are not.
I don’t know about you but I’d like a stake in the discussion; time to think about what this means for me, my family, community and society.
I’ve met people who’ve argued that everything I need is encompassed in The Bible. Well, that’s a view, but just as The Bible doesn’t handle slavery, the role of women. gay rights, relationships with other faiths or issues of difference coherently. It offers possibilities. Ideas that reflect the prevailing attitudes of the time.
We must attempt to honour our sacred texts and traditions but we must also acknowledge we now live in a world that contains wonders and challenges the writers of the past could hardly have imagined in their wildest dreams. These changes in how people live have affected what we understand a human being to be.
Even a hundred years ago it was good going for a person to reach their sixties. Now we anticipate a longer life and a better quality of experience.
We can anticipate that with longer life will come more challenges perhaps to mobility, mental well being or living with chronic conditions.
Discussions in disability theology take these thoughts into dialogue with spirituality, ethics, biblical hermeneutics, political and social theory as well as Psychology. If we can say we have a greater understanding these days of our minds and bodies; a growing knowledge of our place in the universe then we cannot fail to let these insights and new realities impact on us. This is the exciting, provisional conceptualising of what it means to be a part of an evolving human race.
Enough already. I care that we care how we live and in what ways we make sense of this weird experience called life.