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Anabaptist Disabilities Network
ADNet at Pittsburgh Convention
At the Pittsburgh MCUSA Convention in July, ADNet connected with hundreds of youth and adults in four seminars, a reception, and the exhibit hall. ADNet’s new books, Supportive Care in the Congregation and After We're Gone sold hot off the press! See convention slideshow.
Young adults with disabilities spoke to a packed seminar room of youth. Josie Badger, Chris Mielo, and Rachel Kallem, members of the Pennsylvania Youth Leadership Network talked about living well with a disability and disability’s impact on their faith. Badger later received the title of Ms. Wheelchair America. Read a press release about her. She attends Christ Church at Grove Farms, Pittsburgh.
ADNet awarded prizes for artwork entered in our disabilities advocacy poster contest. View a slide show of winning posters.
By Christine Guth, ADNet Program Director
Picture a person with a disability standing on one bank of a river, a community of belonging on the other bank. Imagine that the river dividing them is a disability of some kind. Now, consider how to help the separated person become part of the community. More effective and appropriate than trying to get rid of the river is mustering the strengths from both the individual and the community in order to build bridges across the river, suggests Al Condeluci.
Condeluci, chief executive officer for United Cerebral Palsy of Pittsburgh, has been building bridges for people with disabilities and acting as catalyst for inclusive communities since 1970. He often uses the metaphor of a bridge to talk about how people with disabilities can become active contributors to community life.
With the Mennonite Church USA convention gathering in Condeluci's hometown of Pittsburgh in July, and the convention theme, “Bridges to the Cross,” ADNet staff saw an opportunity. At ADNet's invitation, Condeluci presented a seminar at the convention called “Building Bridges to Community for Persons who are Different.”
Mennonites have a long tradition of highly valuing community as part of the life of Christian faith, yet we may be unaware of the barriers to community participation that people with disabilities encounter. Condeluci, who has spent his career developing and writing about building communities that include people with disabilities, offers insightful, practical approaches to bring people with disabilities from the margins into the center of community life.
“I am convinced that the most powerful thing you can do as advocates is to facilitate people to build more relationships,” says Condeluci. Identifying a person’s abilities and interests, groups who share those interests, and positive gatekeepers in those interest groups is part of his strategy for building the bridge. A critical step is providing an introduction that focuses on common ground and strengths, rather than the person’s disability.
A lively storyteller, Condeluci weaves in stories from growing up in a strong, faith-centered extended family in Pittsburgh and from the many people with disabilities who have been his teachers.You will appreciate the challenging articles Condeluci has on his website. I recommend his article with the provocative title, “Cultural Shifting,” which expands abundantly on his insightful approach to community building.
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