I have supported people with disabilities for many years and have found that often it is quick, simple fixes that allow someone to fully participate. I found this to be the case again. I worked with people to ensure that all the materials were accessible to them in whatever format they required. I worked to ensure that the physical space was accessible as well. I found we were very lucky in the conference space. With only a few exceptions, the physical space was very accessible. I was also available to listen and provide support throughout the week for those with disabilities and their families.
The most rewarding part for me was a facilitating a mutual help support group. The support was for families that included members with autism and Asperger syndrome. I found it very interesting that of the 10 attendees 7 were grandparents looking to find ways to be supportive and helpful for their grandchildren in their home settings. This was very inspiring to me. To hear the stories of challenges spoken with such love was amazing. It was rewarding to see the families share with each other as well as offer support and love. Following the session I heard from participants just how meaningful this group was for them.
In my ministry supporting people with disabilities I am always amazed at the challenges that people overcome on daily basis. They overcome their challenges with grace and love. I am equally amazed by family members and caregivers. They serve in a unique and special role, and they do this with so much love. I also see openness to learn from each other and the grace to ask for help along the well. My life, faith and ministry is always enriched by experiences like this and the people I am blessed to meet along the way.
As I look forward to serving in this role next year, I hope to raise awareness of the importance of our words. Words used innocently can cause harm to others. I hope to also be more available to provide support for physical as well as emotional challenges that arise during the conference itself. Annual Conference and our places of worship should be places of welcoming where everyone can fully participate, no matter what. We have our work cut out for us, but I am not going anywhere until we reach that goal!
Rebekah Flores is a Field Associate with Anabaptist Disabilities Network.