Blue Wheelchair ramp sign

“Social Ramps” – as soon as I read this phrase, my heart responded – “Yes! Churches need to install social ramps!” How many times have we seen churches with ramps, electric doors, and elevators making the building accessible, yet the congregations have not taken steps to develop relationships with people with disabilities and their families. We need to build awareness and build relationships just as we build physical ramps…because it’s the right thing for Christians to do. Jeff McNair and Bryan McKinney challenge churches to move intentionally toward this change of heart in their article, “Social Ramps: The Principles of Universal Design Applied to the Social Environment.” (Journal of the Christian Institute on Disability of Joni and Friends, Vol. 4, No. 1, 2015)

Listen to a story from Joni Earackson Tada which is included in the “Social Ramps” article:

At the White House ceremony celebrating the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, Paul Hearne, National Council on Disabilities president, made these remarks:

“The ADA will mean that there will be mechanical lifts on busses,” he said, “and ramps into restaurants. . . open doors in places of employment.” Paul then fell silent again. After a long moment, he continued, “But this law will not change the heart of the bus driver. It will not change the heart of the restaurant owner or the employer.” After another long pause and with wet eyes, Paul Hearne lifted his glass in a toast: “Here’s to changed hearts.” (Eareckson Tada, Bundy & Verbal, 2011, p. 59)

McNair and McKinney point out that changing hearts calls us to pay attention to individuals’ gifts and needs. They recognize that preparing social ramps calls for humility. “Are we doing things that conform people into our image instead of helping them become more like Christ?” When a person makes an error in social skill or makes an uncontrollable sound or movement, nonjudgmental grace needs to be our response. “Forgiveness is truly the central social ramp. Both sides of the relationship must recognize the call to forgive one another.” (McNair and McKinney, p 59)

And there is much, much more. I’ll be thinking about Changing Hearts this summer. I hope you will too. Read McNair & McKinney here: Social Ramps: The Principles of Universal Design Applied to the Social Environment | Joni and Friends (It’s a free download.)