When Being Nice is Not Enough


The church has a tradition of service to others, of charity, kindness, and good deeds. These are great, but they are not the opposite of, or remedy to, disability discrimination. Discrimination is not measured or remedied by a person’s attitude, or feelings, or good acts, or however many kind deeds are done. These two examples may clarify this point.

The lack of people of color at work sites or schools is obvious. The measurable remedy to racism is not sitting next to a black person and being nice, but to require greater numbers of minority members in schools and work. With gender discrimination, women are at work and school, but their pay and opportunities for promotion is much less than men when doing the same work. The measurable remedy is to require equal pay and promotion for equal work and skills.

With a severe impairment, a person is disabled by the environment and may not be able to participate because of what we build and create. The failure to proactively apply universal design or failure to provide efficient, timely, reasonable accommodation is measurable disability discrimination. As James said, show me your works. Being nice and friendly is not what the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires. The ADA requires changing the environment and the way we do things before there is any perceived need. The ADA requires measurable action, and it requires that we have the knowledge about disability and universal design and accommodation so as to take reasonable action. Ignorance, and silence, and the lack of advanced preparation violate the ADA. Just being nice does not comply with it.

Just as God became a human being not only to change our hearts, but also to change the structures of this world, so we are called not only to change the way we relate to other individuals but also to change our buildings, programs, and communication so that all of God's people can participate as fully as possible in all of life's activities, especially in our churches

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