U.S. Missions takes seriously the Biblical admonition to "Defend the weak and the fatherless;uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed" Psalms 82:3 (KJV), through ministry to persons with disabilities. These people constitute a substantial segment of the world and U.S. population, and the fellowship's Fourth Reason for Being--compassion--compels us to find ways to reach them for Christ.
It's cold outside--think warm by planning for camp next summer!
For many kids, the approach of spring means looking forward to going to camp--church camp, Scout camp, fine arts camp, whatever suits their interest. Thanks to some wonderful organizations, including U.S. Missions ministries, children and adults with physical or developmental disabilities can be part of the excitement. Check out Summer Getaways from Special Touch Ministries, offered in several locations throughout the U.S., and Ability Tree's Victory Ability Camp.
The Americans with Disabilities Act continues to impact the lives of persons with disabilities and their opportunities to interact and function to their maximum potential. Review highlights of this important legislation, and how it affects your church, school, or place of business, here. For an interesting chronology of the struggle for rights for persons with disabilities in the United States, check out this blog post from the Christian Reformed Church Disability Concerns network.
People with Disabilities in Rural Areas
Child Care Centers and the Americans with Disabilities Act
School-Aged Children with Disabilities in U.S. Metropolitan Statistical Areas: 2010 (PDF)
Crime Against Persons with Disabilities
Disability Statistics by State
Fact Sheets for Specific Disabilities
Facts about the Americans with Disabilities Act from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Myths vs. Facts about persons with disabilities
(click on each name to see the ministry)
U.S. Missionary Charlie Chivers and the Special Touch Ministries staff
"People with disabilities desperately want to attend church and are actively looking for churches that care."
"When people with disabilities are encouraged in the life of the church, you have a healthier church."
--Disability Concerns network
Disability-friendly churches: Certification through Special Touch Ministries - See a recent article in Vital, "How Churches Can Empower the Differently Abled," for more about this ministry. Use their assessment survey to get started - It may take planning to get to the "gold" or "platinum" level, but every church can do something, right away!
Compel Them to Come In - Written by the director of Special Touch Ministries, this book takes you into the world of those experiencing a disability, their desperate need for Christian fellowship and a church home, and how your church can be that church home. A study guide is available.
While many people with disabilities lead productive, happy lives, some persons recently disabled by traumatic illness or injury may benefit from caring critical incident response. Check the 461 Response website to register your church as a "caring community" or to get training.
From Elim Christian Services, the "5 Stages" tool helps churches determine where they are in relating to their brothers and sisters in Christ who have disabilities, with the goal of moving from ignorance and pity, to caring and friendship, to becoming co-laborers encouraging and appreciating one another as individually gifted believers.
"On Greeting Persons with Disabilities: A Suggestion Manual for Ushers and Greeters" - Great checklist from the Discipleship Ministries of the United Methodist Church. You may want to incorporate these ideas into your usher/greeter orientation as a step toward becoming a more welcoming church.
Curriculum: "Principles for Life", adapted by Special Touch Ministry to assist churches in reaching people with intellectual disabilities with the Good News of Jesus Christ. Simple, basic Bible lessons, activity suggestions, and teacher notes, easily adjusted to the abilities of the class members.
Disability Concerns: "Everybody Belongs. Everybody Serves." Network for ministry to persons with disabilities and resources for incorporating their gifts into the life of the church. Articles, webinars, and more. The webinar, "Everybody Serves," includes a downloadable PDF of suggested reading for church leaders wishing to include persons with disabilities in the life of the church community. Check out their list of "common courtesies."
Also from the Disability Concerns network - "Redirecting Challenging Behaviors" - This informative and lively video presentation will help equip youth and children's ministry leaders to include all youth without being derailed by unexpected or unfamiliar behavioral challenges.
"Creating a Safe Community for People Who Have Mental Illnesses," blog post of suggestions for churches.
CLC Network: Christian Learning Center offers training events and resources to equip chuches, families, and schools. Visit their bookstore for several books on reaching persons with communications disabilities with the good news of Jesus.
Downloadable from the Lutheran Church/Missouri Synod: Disability Ministry Assessment Tool
A person is not defined by a disability he or she may have. In fact, the definition of "wellness" from SAMHSA (U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) doesn't even mention the absence of a disability as a condition of being well--but it does mention the importance of community, social, and emotional support! Read this blog post, "Disability Doesn't Preclude Wellness," highlighting the importance of the church in creating community for persons with disabilities.
If your church is thinking of starting a group, let this group coordinator's open sharing of successes and failures help.
Estate Planning for Parents of Special Needs Kids
From the National Military Family Association: Resources for Military Families of Children with Special Needs
Not sure what to buy for a Christmas or birthday gift? Check out the "Toy Guide for Differently-Abled Kids" - organized by area of special ability, skill, or challenge, this guide can be customized by age range and budget. Or enjoy this article about Lego's wheelchair minifigure.
For additional summer sports and recreation information, including specific opportunities for specific challenges such as recent limb loss or cancer patients, check the adaptive sports equipment and events at Disabled Sports USA.
Moderate intellectual disability or limited mobility doesn't mean a person can't enjoy studying the Bible in the land where much of it took place! The "Heart of God" and "Thru the Roof" Holy Land tours from Under the Fig Tree Ministries can help make this wonderful experience accessible.
Runway of Dreams - This nonprofit works to adapt clothing for accessibility for the differently-abled community. Watch their mini-documentary for a glimpse of how stylish, accessible clothing boosts confidence for adults and kids alike.
Back-to-school time brings its own special set of challenges for parents of children with special needs. Download a PDF of encouraging tips from LD Online or visit their back-to-school section at www.ldonline.org/calendar/backtoschool.
The sheer amount of information related to a newly acquired disability or injury can be overwhelming. Get help sorting it all out and finding the resources that apply to your concern: The Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center (MSKTC) summarizes research, identifies health information needs, and develops systems for sharing information for the NIDRR model systems programs in traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, and burn injury.
New from Expertise.com, "Home Remodeling for Disability and Special Needs" is a comprehensive guide to grants and other resources available for making a home accessible, as well as tips for finding a reputable contractor and making sure the work is done correctly.
My Child Without Limits - Informative site with recent news, legislative updates, basic definitions and descriptions of various types of disabilities with links to additional resources for each.
Emergency preparedness tips for persons with disabilities and their caregivers
Family Caregiver Tips from the Center for Disease Control
Department of Health and Human Services: Blog - sign up to receive notifications of new blog posts including helpful information on a variety of topics. Check out the recent entry, "Everyone Can Help Stop Bullying of Children with Tourette Syndrome."
John Paul II Medical Research Institute: Ethical, pro-life research for chronic and disabling illnesses
Wondering what is the correct terminology to use when describing a disability or talking to someone with a disability? This style guide will help.
From the Social Security Administration: Benefits for Children with Disabilities
List of support groups from Children's Disabilities Information
Parenting a Child with Special Needs
Signposts Ministries: Blog and support network by and for parents of children with disabilities
The M.O.R.G.A.N. Project: Support network for parents and caregivers
Free Brochures and informational materials from the Center for Disease Control
Friendship Circle Blog: Interaction with parents, helpful tools for educators, and suggested resources for everything from handling transportation issues to buying shoes!
Blog: Brookings Institute's "Health360" with research, updates, and commentary. (Recent article: "A Parent's Perspective: Rethinking Autism Therapy")
Tip sheet for preventing bullying of children with disabilities
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Links
Children with Physical Disabilities: Medical research and reports
Video from Chaplaincy Ministries: Chaplain's testimony of overcoming disabilities in order to minister to others
Joni Eareckson Tada: Joni and Friends International Disability Center provides a variety of services and resources, including the latest information on advocacy and public policy, ministry training for churches, and help finding a disability-friendly church. Visit their website, http://www.joniandfriends.org/. You can also download a handy list of national disability organizations.
Downloadable excerpt: "Making Sense of Autism" from Joni and Friends
Inspirational TED Talk, "My 12 Pairs of Legs," by actor, model, athlete, activist, and double amputee, Aimee Mulliins.
Disabilities and employment
A disability is only one part of a whole person: Check the "what can you do" website for a variety of free or downloadable resources and ways you can help make potential employers aware of the many talents brought to the workplace by persons with disabilities. The Interfaith Disability Advocacy Coalition of the AAPD (American Association of Persons with Disabilities) offers a downloadable "Suggested Steps for Congregations" with practical things churches can do to help unemployed or underemployed community members with disabilities maximize their potential. Find additional resources on employment for youth with disabilities at the National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability. The U.S. Department of Labor's Job Accommodation Network also offers employment resources, including disability etiquette questions for the workplace.
The Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment provides tips about legal requirements, networking opportunities, and other resources.
Article: "Most Employers Are Overlooking This Source of Talent" - why persons with disabilities often make great employees, and what employers can do to be more welcoming.
Disability provisions by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Check your state's .gov website for a list of benefits and services specific to your state--community resources, groups, independent living centers, voter assistance, and more. Sites vary by state.