Task Force on Disability & Deaf Access (TFDDA)
Report to Convention 2021
Task Force Members
Jack Fagan (Chair), Janet Christensen, Catherine Clover, The Rev. Kacei Conyers, Bruce Morrow, Karma Quick‐Panwala, Jan Robitscher
The Task Force
The Task Force on Disability and Deaf Access (TFDDA) was created by resolution at the 170th Convention of the Diocese of California to create a best practices guide for voluntary disability and Deaf access for all Diocesan institutions and congregations, and to review policies and procedures for events and gatherings to make suggestions for improved accessibility.
Appointments to the Task Force were not finalized until August 2020 at the height of the pandemic and it did not convene until September 2020. We experienced additional setbacks as two members were unable to join until several months later, two resigned, and one was on hiatus for nine months.
Best Practices Guide
Despite these challenges and more, the Task Force has produced a working draft of a Best Practices Guide that will be finalized for distribution in early 2022. In it, we focus on access as much or more than on accommodations, and further reframe access in terms of kindness, equity, and ministry.
Disability Sensitivity and Anti-Ableism Training
In the course of our work, we came to understand that “best practice” begins with and requires continually examining internalized, unconscious ableist attitudes and presumptions, and learning about and being open to exploring and addressing how disabled and Deaf people have been alienated and excluded from joining in shared worship, community, employment, or even a call to ministry or clerical positions once ordained. There are ample resources and content expertise in the Bay Area to compile and an interactive curriculum for clergy, hiring managers and others to more fully welcome and include current and potential congregation members, visitors, and employees including clergy who are disabled or Deaf into the life of their church or institution.
Task force members have begun working with disability advocates in the Church of England, and in particular with the Rev. Katie Tupling of the Diocese of Oxford who has cerebral palsy, to adapt an exemplary model of disability outreach, welcoming and belonging for use in the Diocese of California.
It would be easy not to think about who we do not see in our pews and bible studies and coffee hours. And it would be easy not to ask why they are not here. But it would also be easy not to operate food pantries and other outreach ministries or strive for social justice and climate justice, or to study and confront and work to eradicate racism in society and in ourselves, and so many other responsibilities we joyfully accept as Christians.
Churches are exempt from requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act to modify buildings or provide certain accommodations. For Episcopalians, however, a shared Baptismal Covenant guides and impels us more powerfully than any legislation to undertake the sacred work, with God’s help, of seeking and serving Christ in all persons. We believe this includes the work that we have outlined here and which we look forward to sharing with you and embarking on together.