Archives for posts with tag: inclusive ministry

This week is the 29th anniversary of the ADA and I had already commented on three inaccessible posts by booksellers and nonprofits before seven AM.

Help!

When you post a book cover, type out the title

Occupying Aging cover
“Book cover description: Occupying Aging: Delights, Disabilities, and Daily Life” by Katherine Schneider”

When you post a picture, type a short description

Katherine+Schneider.jpeg

“Photo Description: Gray haired woman and yellow lab guide dog stand on bridge at UW-Eau Claire.”

When you post a bumper sticker, type it out too.

ecology bumper sticker
“Bumper sticker description: Picture of Earth from space with text that reads “There is no planet B”

We blind Voiceover users would like to like what you like too.

I shared the above as a Facebook post and commented to the offending posters.  Two of three wrote a comment back saying they would type things out if they had time.  That reminds me of “helpful” flight attendants who tell me if the plane crashes I should wait until last to get off and they’d help me then.  To which I say (at least to myself) “No thanks; I’ll push and shove with the rest of them.

Then there were my technological struggles to download and read No Happy Endings by Nora McInerny. Bookshare had the book and I downloaded it just fine but it wouldn’t open on my preferred reading device. Eventually I downloaded it on to my iPhone and it read fine. It’s an excellent read about a widow who remarries with the theme that troubles and joys keep coming and life is not all tied up with a happy ending bow.

Sounds a lot like my thoughts about the ADA: access struggles continue but there are successes.  I filled out a survey on the public library’s website without any trouble and downloaded a new best seller thriller from Bookshare. My op ed piece about the Inclusive Ministry one year anniversary was in the local paper the day before the event.  I think of the twenty or so people who make each month’s event happen and all you people who do label your Facebook posts.  Happy anniversary, ADA! Live long and prosper!

 

 

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Every year near the end of July, you’ll notice news pieces about the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act and how far we’ve come toward access for  and inclusion of the one out of five Americans who has a disability. Please consider how you can turn the spotlight on advances in your community this month.

I’d like to highlight three things in the Chippewa Valley that give me hope for the good life being open to all.

  • A year ago, Lake Street United Methodist Church hosted the first monthly Ecumenical Inclusive Ministry (IM) Church for people with cognitive disabilities, their friends and families. Each month a different church or ecumenical team organizes and delivers a Sunday school/craft activity, a worship service and a fellowship meal. The attendance is about fifty when you count participants and the team in charge that month. I notice singing and the fellowship supper are the most popular parts of the event. The service occurs the third Sunday each month from 3:00 PM to 4:30 PM. For more info, or to request a ride or sign language interpreter at IM church, contact Ellen at Lake Street United Methodist Church at 715-832-6603.
  • The L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library has purchased a braille printer. This printer is the first of its kind in a Wisconsin public library. Some uses for the printer include: printing legal documents, letters, greeting cards, recipes, directions for appliances, games, projects, magazine and newspaper articles, as well as public meeting agendas and minutes, just to name a few.  Customers wanting to have a document printed can email their document in either Word or PDF format to: annaz@eauclaire.lib.wi.us. There is a 10 page limit per document and customers are limited to one request per week.
  • Erickson Park at Glen Lock in Chippewa Falls opened an accessible area recently. Erickson Park has new accessible fishing docks, kayak launch, bathrooms, pavilions, walk ways and picnic areas and will connect to Irvin Park via an accessible foot bridge.

Have fun finding and highlighting things to celebrate in your community!

The theme for the February IM Church was friendship. So off Luna and I went for our monthly adventure after bumming a ride to and from with another core team member. Greeting folks went smoothly; both Luna and I know how to do that.  I was pleased that the pastor used the prayer I’d submitted for the volunteers about serving with, not doing, for our guests.

Things got dicey when the craft activity began. The lesson was about the friendship between Jonathan and David. Each pair of people at the table was supposed to tie one wrist to their partner and then do the craft together. At the clay table we opted to each make a symbol of friendship. My partner was another steering team member whom I like but don’t know well, a retired special education teacher. She freely admits she doesn’t know much about working with blind people but is willing to learn.  However she and I are alike in that we’re used to being in charge and getting the job done with as little help from others as possible.  So she tied our wrists together and I began using my one free hand to make my clay creation of two birds on a branch together.  When I was mostly done she rightly pointed out I wasn’t doing the assignment right because she wasn’t involved in the creation. Most of our tablemates had discovered they didn’t like to work tied together and had untied themselves.  We did ask and offer help to each other around the table and came up with handsome hearts, pizzas, faces and my birds to which a gal added a bird feeder.

The pastor strolled by to ask if I’d lead the procession into the church with a tambourine and I said I would if my partner would lead with me.  Picture my left hand on Luna’s harness and my right hand tied to my partner’s left hand and gripping the edge of a tambourine. I needed to shake it but also use it to get bodily cues about terrain changes like going up the ramp. I didn’t have a third hand to take her elbow! So she informed me as we processed that I was holding the tambourine wrong and should put my thumb through it “like this”.

Yes, friends have to communicate to work together and we both were talking but not communicating.  Just to make sure I knew we didn’t have good communication going, at the meal after the service I stuck my finger in a bowl of Jell-O I didn’t know was there.  By that time I could laugh.

As I prayed about the event afterwards, I became aware of two things I could do to make the next adventure in friendship work out better.  I need to spend time with her so we can talk out style differences and I need to stick up for my needs for more information and not just retreat into a resentful “fine, you shake the tambourine” sulk.  Why can’t friendships be easy!

Where do you belong? In your town, your workplace, your family, your place of worship, your neighborhood bar…? I was pondering the belonging question this week after being in a focus group for a student’s study on the sense of belonging of blind employees in academe. The other members of my small group were near the beginnings of their careers and I was retired so I got to pass on some observations that I hope help them.

To me, belonging feels a lot like friendship in that it seems you put in a lot of effort and if you’re lucky you get some results. We all joked about graduate school which was a community of shared suffering where belonging was assumed. Complaining, gossiping and celebrating together happened naturally. To some degree group members said they felt this camaraderie at their work places but it was a lot less than in grad school. Blind people have to work extra to produce work in many situations because of technological and other access issues. So having time to engage in the social encounters that make for a sense of belonging is hard.

Also there’s the problem of acceptance by nondisabled folk. The Edwin Markham poem “Outwitted” deals with this issue:

“He drew a circle that shut me out-Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout. But love and I had the wit to win: We drew a circle that took him in.”

As a blind person I have to feel safe about my disability-related needs being met before I can feel much belonging in a group. For example if papers to be discussed are handed out at a meeting and not provided electronically ahead of time, all of a sudden I don’t belong or have much to contribute. If there’s a sign posted “Happy Birthday Sue” but I’m not told, do I belong?

A lot of my sense of belonging has come from doing what Markham mentions in the second half of the quote: drawing others in. I’ve helped start four book clubs; I work to make other outliers feel comfortable in the backrow gang at church. This week I met with a group of Christians trying to start an inclusive ministry service for people with cognitive and other disabilities to have a quarterly worship, Sunday school and fellowship where all are welcomed and get to use their gifts to serve the community.

When we both give to and get from a group we belong. I’ll never forget when one of my guide dogs retired and I threw her a party. About a hundred people came including workmates, daycare kids from the campus daycare, the mail carrier from the neighborhood, the chief of the campus police, etc. She got so many unauthorized treats she didn’t even want breakfast the next day—a first for that Labrador! We belonged to our community.

My advice to the young professionals was:

Expect you’ll have to do extra work to belong. You’re not crazy if you think it’s hard work!

Reach out and bring others into your community.

Be frank about disability needs up front so that gets settled and you can put your energy into enjoying the interactions.

You also can belong to communities because of your disability and they’re wonderful too.