Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Here's a picture of...... oh no, Mary* wasn't there. 

I met Mary in South Sudan.  She was an elderly lady living in her daughter's homestead. When we arrived I saw her crawling on her knees.  She couldn't walk because her right foot was missing and her left foot had no toes.  It was poignantly sad to see her reduced to moving like this.

People like Mary are often missed out in our church work.  Maybe not deliberately but just because it is more difficult for some people with disabilities to travel to meetings.  So their voices aren't heard in decisions.

And they need to be heard.  As people made in the image of God (Genesis 1v27) their opinions are important.  They also have particular perspectives to add.  For instance I was shocked to think for the first time about what it is like for a person with such disabilities to use a pit latrine.  Most pit latrines have no space for access with a wheelchair.  As a result people people like Mary would have to crawl into them getting their hands and knees covered with the remains of urine or faeces from when people missed the hole. Shocking but true.

Image result for photo inclusive pit latrine

It's comparatively simple to build pit latrines that are 'inclusive' and therefore suitable for people with disabilities or the elderly (for example see 'Washplus' advice page 7 or the more comprehensive Compendium of Accessibility).  Changes needed include enlarging the door and using a raised seat.

However sometimes the reason why people with disability are not included is stigma.  This Bible study from Tearfund's REVEAL toolkit explores knowing our true value and this activity helps people understand how disability can lead to vulnerability and exclusion.  

What do you and I need to do to ensure that people like Mary are valued and included?  

*Name changed to protect privacy.

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