By: Emily Schmidlin
To be at the table and to be talked about at a table are two very different things. I attended the Lutheran Services in America Disability Network (LSA-DN) meeting in Carefree, Arizona last month. I have served in a number of leadership positions related to disability ministry for the ELCA. My experience there had proven to be some of the most inclusive environments I have ever encountered. When I accepted the invitation for this meeting, I expected to enter a group that had a long-standing history of representatives with disabilities, similar to my experience with the ELCA. Instead, I found a group of administrative leaders gathering regularly to talk about us without us.
While some may see this as a tremendous shortfall in inclusivity, I saw it as an incredible opportunity to teach and grow together. I participated in engaging discussion and felt welcomed and valued as a guest of the network. It is my hope that my participation and contribution to the meeting was the catalyst for sustained involvement of individuals with disabilities in the network. We've come a long way since the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) passed 26 years ago, but we still have work to do. It's in the courage of LSA-DN to admit shortfalls that the transformative work of true inclusion can begin.
As it says in LSA's tagline, "Together we can". I look forward to seeing how this new sense of togetherness will strengthen and empower those who live with disabilities, as we journey from being served to serving within the organization.