Posts Tagged ‘Disability’

Vale Richard Hill

Posted: March 31, 2015 in Uncategorized
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richardToday I attended the funeral of a true gentleman, Richard Hill, who died at the age of 54.

Richard was a humble man with a great sense of humour and the ability to make anyone who met him consider themselves a friend. He was a champion in every sense of the word and was a leader among leaders.

Diagnosed at a very early age with Muscular Spinal Atrophy, Richard spent much of his life in a wheelchair, but did not allow that to stop him from living life to the full. In fact he used his abilities to influence change at the highest levels. Western Australia has lost one of its most effective disability advocates.

Richard taught me some very important lessons about disability when I met him nearly 10 years ago. He came to Baptistcare seeking support, but in a short time I realised that providing support was not something that we do “to” people, but something we do “with” people. Richard employed his own support workers and managed all his own services. He didn’t require a service provider, but a partner who would work with him in helping achieve a good life.

Richard’s approach to disability and the way he championed “self-management” at a time when governments weren’t sure it if was possible, had a significant impact on the way I worked from that time on. He taught me in his gentle way that true support doesn’t start with the support organisation’s wisdom, expertise and authority, but starts with the person; hearing their story, listening to their dreams and honouring their life.

Richard Hill, thankyou for your influence on so many people, and a life in which your many abilities shone brightly.

The inclusion of people with disabilities into the church is an important issue. I came across an excellent article about this subject on the CBM website, quoting Hans Reinders who is Professor of Ethics at the Free University in Amsterdam, and a leading Christian thinker and speaker on issues of disability, ethics and Christian faith.
Inclusion comes about when we focus on commonalities, not differences
Though friendship is a freely chosen relationship, and one of our most important possessions, it is not something we can achieve for ourselves, but a gift we receive. In the area of life most important to us, we are all dependent. Our universal openness to and need of each other is not dissimilar to living with disability, and this helps us link our lives together

Inclusion comes about when we relate to each other as equals
In friendship we place ourselves in each other’s hands – what is most important to us also makes us most vulnerable. This has helped Reinders reflect on the dangers facing people who find themselves in the hands of people who do not really love them – people who may feel obliged to help them, or are paid to do so, but are not true friends. Here is a place for the church – people who rejoice in dependence on Christ and one other, rather than on maintaining power and control.

Inclusion comes about when we commit to human flourishing and growth
Friendship is like soil most conducive to human flourishing – to people becoming all they can be. What makes us flourish is being chosen. This has helped Reinders reflect on the power of friendship to transform and change people and situations. Against the assumption that things won’t change, is the affirmation that love can and does change everything.

Inclusion comes about when our focus goes beyond public advocacy
Fighting for the rights of people with a disability is a good, political goal, but it cannot achieve the most important good of friendship. “Rights create the bonds of citizenship; unfortunately, they do not forge the moral bonds of friendship.” This insight has helped Reinders take the discussion about disability inclusion from arguments for equitable participation in public spaces to the deeper level of dismantling barriers surrounding the much more important sphere of friendship and intimacy.

Hans Reinders is Professor of Ethics at the Free University in Amsterdam, and a foremost Christian thinker and speaker on issues of disability, ethics and Christian faith. He is also the current editor of the Journal of Religion, Disability and Health, and author/editor of several books on disability and theology, including The Future of the Disabled in Liberal Society, Receiving the Gift of Friendship: Profound Disability, Theological Anthropology, and Ethics and The Paradox of Disability: Responses to Jean Vanier and L’Arche Communities from Theology and the Sciences.

An inspirational story about the Saidpur Deaf Club. Wadud tells of the barriers faced in his life as a deaf man in Bangladesh.