When Abled People Don't Know They're Being Abled


Okay, so I shamelessly altered the title of someone's blog, When White People Don't Know They're Being White. I love the way this title gets at the unintentional nature of our prejudices. Mostly, we don't want to speak and act with prejudice, but too often hear ourselves saying, "Oops, I did it again." And our prejudices bleed into every aspect of human difference: ethnicity, ability, sexual orientation, gender, social class, to name a few examples. 

Getting more specific, abled people forget they're being abled when 

  • they "forget" to create large print bulletins at church, even though several people need them
  • they call something mediocre "lame," implying that anyone who walks with an irregular gate is mediocre
  • they claim that church facilities don't need to be accessible because there are no members who use wheelchairs (pause for a moment to reflect on the absurdity of that line of reasoning)
  • they associate blindness with immorality (as in the phrase "blind to injustice")
  • they fear that people with disabilities will be a "drain" on church resources. 

Last week, Christena Cleveland posted a marvelous blog entitled Beyond Multiethnic. In this first entry in what promises to be a good series, Cleveland challenges church leaders who want their ethnically homogeneous congregations to become ethnically diverse with a question, “Well, is your church succeeding at loving the diverse people who are already in your midst?" What about the women, the people who are gay, people with disabilities, people with lower incomes and/or informal education? She follows up with an obvious question, “Why are you interested in attracting racially diverse people if you haven’t demonstrated that you can love the racially similar but culturally different people that are already in your midst?” 

Besides awakening to ethnic and abled prejudices, people need to think about when straight people don't know they're being straight, when middle class people don't know they're being middle class, when highly educated people don't know they're being highly educated.  

How well is your church ministering to members who are at the margins? What lessons do you need to learn from them before you attempt to become diverse in yet another way?

Posted in:
Image Credit

The Network hosts user-submitted content.
Posts don't necessarily imply CRCNA endorsement, but must comply with our community guidelines.

Let's Discuss…

We love your comments! Thanks for your help upholding the Community Guidelines to make this an encouraging and respectful community for everyone.

"If it walks like a duck, swims like a duck, quacks like a duck . . . ."



How about a title of: "When politically-correct people don't know they're being politically-correct"

The Matthew Shephard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act lists “sexual orientation” as a protected class; however it does not define the term.

Republicans attempted to add an amendment specifying that “pedophilia is not covered as an orientation.” However, the amendment was defeated by Democrats in Congress shortly after President Obama took office.

Read more at http://www.wnd.com/2013/07/gay-laws-set-stage-for-pedophilia-rights/#T7RlBWkLZ6o8mu8I.99

You are welcome to print the bulletin in large print.

Apart from those who tend to play the race card beating the drum of white guilt, there isn't actually anything wrong with having a white skin.

Of course there is absolutely nothing wrong with being straight:  

Luke 13:13  And he laid his hands on her: and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God.

12 Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; 13 and make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed.  Hebrews 12:12-13


The Webster dictionary's definition of LAME, a.

1. Crippled or disabled in a limb, or otherwise injured so as to be unsound and impaired in strength; as a lame arm or leg, or a person lame in one leg.

2. Imperfect; not satisfactory; as a lame excuse.

3. Hobbling; not smooth; as numbers in verse.




Community Builder

Joy, I find that whenever someone challenges prejudicial behaviors, they like to label it "politically correct." But if our behaviors and words hurt other people, it is not political correctness, it is a failure of love. Sure the dictionary gives a definition of "lame" that includes "imperfect, not satisfactory" just as it includes in the definition of "retard," "a person who is stupid, obtuse, or ineffective in some way: a hopeless social retard." But the dictionary is merely descriptive of the way we use language, not prescriptive. For me, Christ is my guide for prescribing behavior, and the golden rule he laid out for us is this, "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets." (Matthew 7:12)

No Mark, it seems that you are confusing prejudicial behaviors with mere thoughtlessness.  For example not having the bulletin printed in large print might be thoughtless but it's not prejudicial.  Also maybe there just isn't the funds to retrofit a ramp or something for wheelchairs.  Of course new church buildings should be wheelchair accessible as one can simply ensure the main entrance is right at ground level not needing one to climb up some stairs.  However it can be expensive to retrofit an older church building.  Perhaps all one needs to do is think outside the box and when 'Mrs Jones' arrives in her wheelchair a couple of able-bodied men can lift 'Mrs Jones' up the couple of steps. Similary for a deaf person, instead of installing the expensive system for the hard of hearing perhaps one can simply offer the person a copy of the sermon (notes).

It amazes me when those that profess to be Christian make reference to 'sexual orientation' not realizing that in reality it can mean any sexual orientation including pedophiles; those who commit bestiality etc.

While a deaf person might need a copy of the sermon; a person with vision problems a larger font bulletin; a person in a wheelchair needing a lift up the stairs.   Are we expected to be accepting of homosexual marriage / adoption etc.?  Surely this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=diC0A3Ik7Tc is a more Christian approach to homosexuals.

Community Builder

Joy, I used the term "sexual orientation" to refer to someone's attraction either to persons of the opposite or same gender or both, which is the usual use of the term. Regarding my beliefs, I agree with the CRC's statement on homosexuality. That statement makes the same point I'm trying to make in this blog, "Persons of same-sex attraction should not be denied community acceptance solely because of their sexual orientation and should be wholeheartedly received by the church and given loving support and encouragement." Heterosexual people sometimes show blatant prejudice and more often we engage in "thoughtless" (to use your term) actions and language that can really hurt people with homosexual orientation. So I disagree with you that thoughtlessness can be contrasted with prejudicial behavior. Prejudicial behavior frequently takes the form of thoughtlessness. When we only act within the realm of our own experience and (often unintentionally) shut out others from participation in worship, congregational meetings, and so on, that's prejudice in action. 

I agree with you that not every church can afford big changes to their buildings, but the most important changes must come in our own attitudes - which is a costly change, but does not involve any dollars. To push back a little more, if we consider that about 20 percent of people in North American live with disabilities, shouldn't we devote a part of our church budget every year (at least 10 percent) to including people who have disabilities in the life and ministry of the chuch?


Community Builder

The opening illustration of this blog gives an example of "thoughtlessness" that demonstrates prejudice against people who are single by someone who is married. Put it under the category of "When married people don't know they're being married."

Well said Mark. Thank you.

I would add that applying the word "mere" to thoughtlessness gives excuse to our thoughtless attitudes.



Thank you for articulating so very clearly how we need to work on being more aware of how we act and what we say. I have often heard from others and said something myself similar to, "It was not my/our intention to exclude fill in the blank." Statements such as this should tell us that if we indeed do not want anyone to be or feel excluded, then we need to be "intentional" to do our best to include ALL God's children in everything we say, do, and experience as the body of Christ.

Grace & Peace,


  • they associate blindness with immorality (as in the phrase "blind to injustice")

No one has read "1984?" As I recall, George Winston's work duty was to edit words and phrases out of the English language in order to dumb down the general public. The above sentence is a prime example of trying to trash the English language. from google, note the second definition and synonyms under adjective: blindblīnd/adjective 

  1. 1.unable to see; sightless."she suffered from glaucoma, which has left her completely blind"synonyms:sightlessunsighted, visually impaired, visionless, unseeing; More     
  2. 2.lacking perception, awareness, or discernment."he's absolutely blind where you're concerned, isn't he?"synonyms:imperceptive, unperceptive, insensitiveslowobtuse,uncomprehending; More         


  1. 1.cause (someone) to be unable to see, permanently or temporarily."the injury temporarily blinded him"synonyms:make blind, deprive of sight, render sightless; More  
  2. 2.deprive (someone) of understanding, judgment, or perception."a clever tactician blinded by passion"synonyms:deprive of judgment, deprive of perception, deprive of reason, deprive of sense More 


  1. 1.people who are unable to see."guide dogs for the blind"
  2. 2.an obstruction to sight or light, in particular.


  1. 1.without being able to see clearly."he was the first pilot in history to fly blind"


Community Builder

Bill, language keeps changing. If we listen to the voices of people who are blind, you'll find many of them saying that it pains them to hear their blindness associated with "lacking perception, awareness, or discernment." Similarly, people who have intellectual disability with the word "retard." My understanding of 1984 is that Orwell was concerned with the increasing use of language to deceive people. One can easily talk about lack of perception and stupidity without resorting to words like "blind" or "regarded." 

While sensitivity ought to be a characteristic of the christian, we ought also to remember that Christ himself used the term "the blind leading the blind" to describe the leaders of Israel.  (Matthew 15).   Or remember the phrase, "...hearing they do not hear"?    I am old enough to wonder if sometimes I am losing my hearing slowly, due to a constant buzzing in the ear.   I could refer to it as a "difficulty" or some other euphenism, but the truth is that if I am becoming deaf, that is what it is.   Being almost blind without my glasses.... is what it is.  

My value and worth to Christ is not based on the little hammer in my ear, nor in the cornea or retina of my eyes, nor on whether I am missing a fingernail or an arm, or have a hip replacement, or suffer arthritis, or need a cane or walker or wheelchair.   As Christians we take each other the way we are, and not as someone we would like to be or imagine to be.   Without minimizing it, whatever physical handicap we might have, is as nothing compared to the handicap of pride, or self pity, or lack of relationship with Christ.   Sugar-coating our condtion will probably not help either in the physical or spiritual realm.   Christ makes all things new.   We are not different just  because we use different words to describe our frailties, but we are new because we can see beyond our condition, because Christ loves us.  

Community Builder

John, when talking about physical conditions, the words "blind" and "deaf" are perfectly acceptable to nearly everyone including people who are blind and people who are deaf. The concern I'm expressing is with the metaphorical use of these terms. Over the centuries, disability has often been associated with sinfulness. Though Jesus tried to end that ridiculous reasoning in his teaching recorded in John 9, his followers have persisted in this heresy. Many people with disabilities are accused of lacking faith, or experiencing disability due to unconfessed sin. Understandably, that kind of talk leaves people feeling wounded. So it's no wonder that some folks feel sensitive about metaphorical uses of the ideas of blindness and deafness because this metaphorical use is always negative - as in "deaf to the Word" or "blind to prejudice". Yes, our Lord himself uses the concepts of blindness and deafness metaphorically. So I'm not going to say we should never do so ourselves, but I'm saying that doing so can hurt others. And since that's true, why not find other ways of expressing the same ideas? 

Mark, acceptability perhaps ought not to be the primary criteria.... just sayin...   Unless it is acceptable first of all to Christ.  Jesus used the terms in a metaphorical way, even though, like you said, he clearly indicated that people were not maimed or blind or deaf because of their particular sin, nor even the sin of their parents.   That's clear.   When people say that some are physically blind because of lack of faith, they are not using a metaphor; they are simply  speaking untruth.  (Lying, or inaccurate)   Only the blind can perhaps truly understand the metaphor, since how can one who sees really understand what it is to be blind?   Thus the blind leading the blind.... but those blind think they can see, as Jesus said.   "Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say , We see...  But you remain guilty because you claim you can see"  (John 9:41). 

You may have tinnitus. see  google,  wiki.  My ears have been buzzing for 20 years. Probably cause by loudnoises and asparin overdoses.