What’s her name? – on disability and the church

Today’s post was a surprisingly vulnerable one to write. I have no problem identifying as disabled when I am in the role of disability rights campaigner, but somehow it is surprisingly hard describing how it feels to be viewed as disabled when society, and even church, is prejudiced against disabled people. When She Loves magazine asked me to write for their series, “We are the Other”, about inclusivity and the church, I knew it was too important an opportunity to pass up.

Here’s how it starts:

“What’s her name?”

The airport official spoke over my head to my husband and it took me a while before I even registered she was referring to me.

Why doesn’t she just ask me? I wondered. And then it clicked: it’s because of the wheelchair.

Apparently, the wheelchair I sit in signified to the woman that not only do I have mobility problems, but I am incapable of speech. I felt half-offended, half-amused. At such moments I don’t necessarily think holy thoughts.  After all, when you’re sitting in a wheelchair, the person standing in front of you has their crotch at prime head-butting height.

(oh, and I also give Toy Story a mention…!) Won’t you come with me to She Loves magazine and read the rest? 

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8 Responses to What’s her name? – on disability and the church

  1. Sue Hurrell 6th November, 2014 at 5:55 am #

    A brilliant article. People with disabilities are expected to tolerate a level of segregation that would be intolerable to others. And yes, disabled theologians and writers have more to talk about that disability!
    That experience of being talked over, avoiding eye contact etc is, in my view, partly a result of an education system that still segregates children with physical disabilities. Did you know that school buildings have been exempt from the duty to make reasonable adjustments for 20 years? They are instead bound by planning duties that are largely ignored. The children in my daughter’s school who have grown up with her and her wheelchair, will be more likely to naturally relate to wheelchair users throughout their lives.

    • Tanya 6th November, 2014 at 11:10 am #

      Thank you so much!
      And yes – I found out about schools being exempted from making reasonable adjustments when I discovered that one of the best schools in our city, local to us, was completely inaccessible to wheelchairs. So we had to choose somewhere else for our boy – I wasn’t going to send him somewhere that I could never go to parents’ evenings or watch his school productions. Crazy.

      I was also coming to the same conclusion: we need to work with school children on understanding what it means to be disabled. I was thinking education (eg disability awareness days), but you’re right, there also needs to be integration. Integration is probably more powerful. I am hopeful that this generation will at least be more tolerant than my generation.

  2. Mark Allman 30th October, 2014 at 7:39 pm #

    A great post… everyone should go over to She Loves magazine and read it!

    • Tanya 19th November, 2014 at 2:53 pm #

      Thanks, Mark! I appreciate your support 🙂

  3. Mavis Poole 30th October, 2014 at 5:56 pm #

    Excellent article,direct,grounded also a worthwhile read, enjoyed this blog!
    already looking forward to the next! #Blessings.

    • Tanya 19th November, 2014 at 2:53 pm #

      Thanks so much, Mavis! I really appreciate you reading.


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