Academic journal article The Journal of Rehabilitation

Individuals with Disabilities: Critical Factors That Facilitate Integration in Christian Religious Communities

Academic journal article The Journal of Rehabilitation

Individuals with Disabilities: Critical Factors That Facilitate Integration in Christian Religious Communities

Article excerpt

Many individuals experiencing disabilities find spirituality to be a valuable resource (Boswell, Knight, Hamer, & McChesney, 2001; Kaye & Raghavan, 2002; Schulz, 2005), and pursue connection with a spiritual community through involvement in a religion or a religious organization such as a church, synagogue, or mosque (Boswell, Hamer, Knight, Glacoff, & McChesney, 2007; Hurst, 2007). Few studies have addressed the viewpoints or experiences of individuals with disabilities participating in religious communities. Researchers have addressed the difficulties of accessibility related to attitudes, and few studies have systematically gathered or cited data. Christensen and Weil (2007) described a community-wide program that worked to facilitate the inclusion of individuals with disabilities and their families into Jewish religious communities in the Minneapolis area. Collins and Ault (2010) described efforts by two large urban churches to change program offerings in order to increase inclusive practices. Webb-Mitchell (2010) highlighted the efforts of the Presbyterian Church to measure the accessibility of local churches, but lamented that studies had not addressed the degree to which individuals with disabilities are involved in the activities of local congregations or the kinds of activities individuals with disabilities are engaging in within the local congregations. The purpose of this research was to explore what assists individuals with disabilities toward involvement in religious communities.

Moberg (2008) suggested that benefits of religious engagement might be a result of the spirituality associated with religious practices. Spirituality and religion are entwined. Johnstone, Glass, and Oliver (2007) found the terms were frequently used interchangeably but observed that "spirituality is applicable to all persons, whether religious, atheist, agnostic, or uncategorical" (p. 1154). Johnstone et al. (2007) highlighted the subjective and individual nature of spirituality and the communal nature of religion--with activities, values, and beliefs shared by a group.

Humans need a sense of belonging to a community for their own well-being (Huebner, Johnson, Bennett, & Schneck, 2003; Mannarini & Fedi, 2009; Stewart et al., 2008). Mac-Queen et al. (2001) defined community as "a group of people with diverse characteristics who are linked by social ties, share common perspectives, and engage in joint action in geographical locations or settings" (p. 1936), but cautioned that program creators and community researchers must consider that "the experience of community" (p. 1936) varies for individuals with different backgrounds and across settings. Matarrita-Cascante, Luloof, Field, and Krannich (2008) noted that social interaction related to local issues is the critical factor of membership in a community, and that any impediment to such interaction (such as being looked on as less than a full member) creates difficulties with association. Hill and Matsubayashi (2008) offered that involvement with religious organizations is widely viewed as the most prevalent form of community engagement in the United States. Simply placing an individual into a community setting is not sufficient. Royce-Davis (2001) argued that active participation results from the development of deliberate, self-determined relationships on the individual and group level, and that the adequacy of an individual's participation must be evaluated subjectively. Though community participation supports individual well-being, social exclusion can have the opposite effect. The social exclusion of an individual can contribute to a low sense of self-worth and feelings of powerlessness with an internalization of fault, potentially resulting in an individual's further avoidance of community life and negative perceptions of health (Stewart et al., 2008).

Hurst (2007) viewed four components--community, beliefs, rituals, and practices--as critical to the definition of religion. …

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