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From Access to Belonging

Photo above: Francene, Fritz, and Eric at the ADA 25th Anniversary Service

On Sunday, July 26th community members from L’Arche Greater Washington DC attended the “From Access to Belonging” interfaith service that was organized by the Interfaith Disability Advocacy Coalition. Together we were celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, more commonly referred to as the ADA. There were three reflections on the theme “From Access to Belonging” interspersed with music, litanies, and moments of recognition.

Dilshad D. Ali, from EnabledMuslim, spoke of her experiences in the Islamic faith tradition with her son who has autism. When she spoke of the need for her home mosque to continue working towards better understanding the need for inclusion of people with disabilities, she spoke of her son. “He is the embodiment of Islam,” she said, “He doesn’t need the mosque, the mosque needs him…”

Rabbi David Saperstein also spoke of the need for full inclusion and acceptance in faith communities. “Too often,” he said, “the need to make Jewish and communal life accessible is seen as an impositions. And yet, when it is made accessible, it brings life…” He specifically spoke to the Jewish experience and the perspective their faith tradition gives them. He stated that part of the Jewish story is about being outsiders and that that gives a better understanding of the importance of inclusion.

The third reflection came from Mark Johnson, Director of Advocacy and a part of the ADA Legacy Project. He focused on the importance of community and said, “that call to embrace the spirit of love is within all of us, we just have to listen.” He said his goal is to normalize disability, and part of that is to celebrate community, to listen to one another, and to love. “We are told to love God, to love your neighbor, and to love yourself,” he said, “it can be so hard to love yourself.”

Near the end of the service, Rabbi Lynne F. Landsberg was presented the first ever Thornburgh Family Award by the Interfaith Disability Advocacy Coalition. This award was created to recognize religious leaders who exemplify the spirit of the ADA. When accepting the award, Rabbi Landsberg stated, “The ADA mandates access to public buildings, but it cannot mandate access to the human heart.”

L’Arche community members, Francene, Charles, Eric, and Fritz participated in the closing of the service, passing gifts to service attendees.

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