John Beauchamp, our Diocesan Disability Ministry Enabler, writes about this year’s theme of ‘Disability, children and youth’.

16 November – 16 December

This year ‘Disability History Month’ is focussing on ‘Disability, children and youth.’  The month is an encouragement for communities, groups and institutions to reflect on how disabled children and young people have been treated and regarded in the past, how they are enabled and included today, and what needs to change to create a truly inclusive and equal future for disabled people.

The UK has a poor history of the inclusion of disabled children and young people in education and society that continued through the 20th century and is still evident today.  Physical and attitudinal barriers have prevented them flourishing in education and as full members of society.

The 2023 Disability History Month will give disabled children and young people a platform to tell their own stories and share their vision of a more inclusive and equal future. Find out more on the DHM website.

In our churches, this is a call to look at the children and youth provision we offer and ask questions about how we enable inclusion.  Whether you have any disabled children or young people attending your church or not, their may be families in your parish caring for disabled children. They may be longing for places and opportunities where their children can have the chance to fully belong and participate.

How inclusive are your Christmas events and services?  See Celia Webster’s reflections ‘Why and how should we make Christmas services inclusive of all abilities?’ and ‘Christmas access top tips,’ for lots of useful hints and tips.

Urban Saints offer an excellent suite of resources and training to help you think about this and improve what you offer.

The most important thing to do if you want to improve your work with disabled children and young people though is to talk to them and their parents. They are your experts and their wisdom is important.

So go out and find them. Use the contacts you have through your congregation.  Contact any special schools in the area and talk to your local primary schools. If you approach the parent of a child with additional needs and explain that you want to explore how the church can be more inclusive, they are most likely to be thrilled that you have even thought of including them.

Here are some other useful links.

  • Wave for change – being church with people with learning difficulties in London.
  • Count Everyone In – support, training and encouragement for churches to include adults with learning disabilities.
  • Growing Hope – Growing Hope set up clinics in partnership with local churches, offer training to facilitate support groups for parents and siblings of children with additional needs, and champion accessibility within churches through training and award programs.