I have an impairment, but I don’t have a disability. This is because my impairment (poor sight) is corrected by glasses, so it has very little impact on what I can and cannot do.
However, without my glasses I would have struggled at school, and I might not have been able to get a job. Not being able to see properly would have affected my confidence. Perhaps my friends would have left me out because I could not join in their activities. If I had not received the support I needed (glasses and contact lenses) I would probably have experienced significant social and economic restrictions. I would have been living with a disability.
Throughout this edition of Footsteps we are reminded that disability is mostly caused by barriers in society, not by specific physical, intellectual or emotional impairments (page 3). These barriers might be very obvious: for example, steps into a building and no ramp. But often it is people’s attitudes that are the problem, and many people with disabilities face misunderstanding and discrimination on a daily basis.
If these barriers are identified and broken down (page 5), our churches and communities will be more vibrant, diverse and inclusive (pages 6 and 24). Everyone will have access to essential services such as water and sanitation (page 10) and no one will be left behind in times of disaster (page 8). People with hidden disabilities, such as depression, will feel valued and understood (page 14).
Speaking about the church Paul says, ‘God has put the body together, giving greater honour to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it’ (1 Corinthians 12: 24–26).