Disability and religion

The intersection of disability and religion concentrates on the manner in which disabled people are treated within religious communities, the religious texts of those religions, or the general input from religious discourse on matters relating to disability.[1] Studies on the relationship between religion and disability vary widely, with some postulating the existence of ableism[2] and others viewing religion as a primary medium through which to assist disabled people.[3] Religious exhortation often prompts adherents to treat people with disabilities with deference, however when the disability constitutes a mental illness such an approach may be slanted with an acknowledgement of the latter's naivete.[4] In religions with an eschatological belief in divine judgment, there are often traditions promulgating an exemption from judgement in the afterlife for the mentally disabled, as well as for children who die before reaching maturity due to both lacking an understanding of their actions in a manner analogous to the mental disorder defense.[5] Regarding the rationale behind God's creation of disabled people, some religions maintain that their contrast with the able-bodied permits the able-bodied to reflect and God to subsequently assess the level of gratitude shown by each individual for their health.[6]

Buddhism and disability

Disability in Buddhist religious texts

In the book, The Words of my Perfect Teacher by Patrul Rinpoche, the author states that the presence of a disability that impedes an understanding of the concept of dharma will prevent a person from being able to practice Buddhism. [7]

Disability in contemporary Buddhism

Most Buddhists believe that bad karma (which arises from immoral actions) is the cause of disability.[8][9][10] Buddhists also believe in showing compassion towards people less fortunate than themselves (known as songsarn), including towards the disabled, which is believed by Buddhists to help build their own good karma.[10] This has mixed consequences for people with disabilities living in predominantly Buddhist societies. In societies where Buddhism is the main religion practiced, Buddhists with disabilities have reported that other people have condescending attitudes towards them. [11] The emphasis on compassion has been linked with a reluctance to encourage independence and social participation in people with disabilities.[12]In Thailand, the World Bank reports that because of Buddhism's teachings on showing compassion towards the weak, people often donate money to beggars with disabilities or charities that help the disabled. The World Bank argues that while this kindness can be admirable, it does not promote equality for people with disabilities.[13]

Christianity and disability

Throughout the history of Christianity, attitudes towards disability have varied greatly.

Disability in the Bible

A misreading of the Bible could lead one to think physical disability is often portrayed as a punishment for sinners. In the New Testament, Jesus is often shown performing miraculous healing those with disabilities, although some believe Jesus still referred to sin as the cause of physical disability.[14] The Bible makes no reference to intellectual disability[15] Contrast this perspective to Christ healing the man born blind (John 9:1-12), where Jesus challenges the Jewish view of His time that disability was punishment for sin. “His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Jesus replied: Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

Early Christianity

In the Middle Ages, there were two prevailing approaches to those with disabilities. Some priests and scholars took the view that disability was a punishment from God for committing sins, as is often described in the Bible. Others believed that those with disabilities were more pious than non-disabled people.[16] Furthermore, Martin Luther held the view that disability was caused by sin, and is recorded to have recommended to the Prince of Dessau that a young boy with disabilities be drowned. When this suggestion was rebuked, Luther told the prince that Christians should pray for the Devil to be removed from the boy every day.[17]

Contemporary Christianity

Disability is still linked with sin in some denominations of the church and in some cultures where Christianity is the predominant religion.[17] In Ghana, people with mental illnesses and neurological disorders are routinely sent to prayer camps that are linked with Evangelical and Pentecostal churches, to try to overcome their disorder. Prayer camps have been condemned by Human Rights Watch because of the way that people in prayer camps are often treated. Human Rights Watch reports that people living in prayer camps are subject to being chained to objects for prolonged periods, being deprived of food and poor sanitation.[18][19] Christians with disabilities also report feeling unwelcome when attending church. Many families of children with disabilities in the USA report feeling excluded from Church services because of the attitudes of other members of the congregation.[20]

On the other hand, some Christians feel that their faith means they have a duty to care for those with disabilities.[21] As well as this, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has called for the church to become more accepting of those with disabilities.[22]

Hinduism and disability

Disability in Hindu texts

Ashtavakra who had eight physical deformities, was said to be the author of the Hindu religious text Ashtavakra Gita.[23] He is shown to have triumphed over the scholars in King Janaka's court, who mocked his disabilities.[24]

The Bhagavad Gita emphasises detachment from the world and coming to view pain and suffering as neither positive or negative. In the case of suffering, while it brings discomfort, it can also be seen as a positive phenomenon, because it advances a person's spiritual development.[25]

Disability in contemporary Hinduism

As with Buddhism, Hindus also believe that disability is caused by negative karma.[9] Hinduism also views charitable actions, such as giving money to those in need, as a positive action that will help build a person's good karma for their next life.[26] Disability can be treated as something that is very shameful, with some families confining disabled family members to the home. In other cases, people with disabilities are pitied.[27]

Islam and disability

Disability in the Qur'an, Hadith and Sharia Law

In Islam, the cause of disability is not attributed to wrongdoing by the disabled person or their parents. Islam views disability as a challenge set by Allah.[28] The Qur'an urges people to treat people with intellectual disabilities with kindness and to protect people with disabilities. Muhammed is shown to treat disabled people with respect.[29]

Disability in early Islam

In the early Islamic caliphate, Bayt al-mal was established to provide for money for people in need, which included the disabled, which was funded by zakat.[30]

In the 16th century, the Islamic scholar Ibn Fahd's book al-Nukat al-Zirâf argued that disability could be caused by disobeying a prophet and also be healed by prophets, although the books faced a widespread backlash at the time.[31]

Disability in contemporary Islam

In Saudi Arabia, there is a strong focus on equality for children with special needs, which is based on Islam's views on disability.[29] Despite the Qur’an’s teachings on treating disabled people with respect, some Muslim families still report feelings of shame around having a disabled relative and refuse to allow a disabled person to participate in key aspects of Islam, such as attending the Mosque and fasting for Ramadan.[29]

Judaism and disability

Disability in the Torah

In the Torah, disability is caused by Yahweh, as a punishment for transgressions.[32] Although, God also commands Jews in Israel to "not insult the deaf, or place a stumbling block before the blind".[33] As well as this, Halakha states that people should support sick people.[34]

Disability in contemporary Judaism

A poll of American Jews with disabilities found that less than 1 in 5 Jews felt that Jewish institutions were doing "very well" or "extremely well" in including disabled people in community activities.[35] As well as this, Jewish day schools are exempt from the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.[35] In Israel, a study on the Haredi community found strong support for integrating children with disabilities into mainstream schools.[36]


  1. ^ Idler, E. L.; Kasl, S. V. (1997-11-01). "Religion among disabled and nondisabled persons II: attendance at religious services as a predictor of the course of disability". The Journals of Gerontology. Series B, Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences. 52 (6): S306–316. ISSN 1079-5014. PMID 9403524.
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  21. ^ Brock, Brian (2012). Brock, Brian; Swinton, John (eds.). Disability in the Christian Tradition: A Reader. Cambridge: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. p. 20. ISBN 9780802866028. Retrieved 8 December 2018.
  22. ^ Rose, Beth (6 July 2018). "Archbishop: I don't pray for my daughter's disability". BBC News. BBC. Retrieved 8 December 2018.
  23. ^ Stroud, Scott R. (2004). "Narrative as Argument in Indian Philosophy: The Astavakra Gita as Multivalent Narrative". Philosophy and Rhetoric. 37 (1): 42–71. doi:10.1353/par.2004.0011.
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External links


Ableism (; also known as ablism, disablism (Brit. English), anapirophobia, anapirism, and disability discrimination) is discrimination and social prejudice against people with disabilities or who are perceived to have disabilities. Ableism characterizes persons as defined by their disabilities and as inferior to the non-disabled. On this basis, people are assigned or denied certain perceived abilities, skills, or character orientations.

There are stereotypes associated with various disabilities. These stereotypes in turn serve as a justification for ableist practices and reinforce discriminatory attitudes and behaviors toward people who are disabled. Labeling affects people when it limits their options for action or changes their identity.In ableist societies, people with disabilities are viewed as less valuable, or even less than human. The eugenics movement of the early 20th century would be considered an example of widespread ableism. The mass murder of disabled in Nazi Germany's Aktion T4 would be an extreme example of ableism.

Ableism can also be better understood by reading literature published by those who experience disability and ableism first-hand. Disability Studies is an academic discipline that is also beneficial to explore to gain a better understanding of ableism.

Accessible tourism

Accessible tourism is the ongoing endeavour to ensure tourist destinations, products and services are accessible to all people, regardless of their physical limitations, disabilities or age. It encompasses publicly and privately owned tourist locations. The term has been defined by Darcy and Dickson (2009, p34) as:

Accessible tourism enables people with access requirements, including mobility, vision, hearing and cognitive dimensions of access, to function independently and with equity and dignity through the delivery of universally designed tourism products, services and environments. This definition is inclusive of all people including those travelling with children in prams, people with disabilities and seniors.

Assistance dog

In general, an assistance dog is trained to aid or assist an individual with a disability. Many are trained by an assistance dog organization, or by their handler, often with the help of a professional trainer.

Assistive cane

An assistive cane is a walking stick used as a crutch or mobility aid. A cane can help redistribute weight from a lower leg that is weak or painful, improve stability by increasing the base of support, and provide tactile information about the ground to improve balance. In the US, ten percent of adults older than 65 years use a cane, and 4.6 percent use walkers.In contrast to crutches, canes are generally lighter, but, because they transfer the load through the user's unsupported wrist, are unable to offload equal loads from the legs.

Another type of crutch is the walker, a frame held in front of the user and which the user leans on during movement. Walkers are more stable due to their increased area of ground contact, but are larger and less wieldy and, like canes, pass the full load through the user's wrists in most cases.

Assistive technology

Assistive technology is an umbrella term that includes assistive, adaptive, and rehabilitative devices for people with disabilities or elderly population while also including the process used in selecting, locating, and using them. People who have disabilities often have difficulty performing activities of daily living (ADLs) independently, or even with assistance. ADLs are self-care activities that include toileting, mobility (ambulation), eating, bathing, dressing and grooming. Assistive technology can ameliorate the effects of disabilities that limit the ability to perform ADLs. Assistive technology promotes greater independence by enabling people to perform tasks they were formerly unable to accomplish, or had great difficulty accomplishing, by providing enhancements to, or changing methods of interacting with, the technology needed to accomplish such tasks. For example, wheelchairs provide independent mobility for those who cannot walk, while assistive eating devices can enable people who cannot feed themselves to do so. Due to assistive technology, people with disabilities have an opportunity of a more positive and easygoing lifestyle, with an increase in "social participation," "security and control," and a greater chance to "reduce institutional costs without significantly increasing household expenses."


Bodymind is an approach to understand the relationship between the human body and mind in which they are seen as a single integrated unit. It attempts to address the mind–body problem and resists the Western traditions of mind–body dualism and dualism. The term bodymind is also typically seen and encountered in disability studies, referring to the intricate and often times inseparable relationship between the body and the mind, and how these two units might act as one. The field of psychosomatic medicine investigates this concept.

Boot (medical)

A boot is a medical device worn during treatment and recovery of a variety of foot injuries. Along with orthopedic casts, leg braces, splints and orthotics, it is a form of immobilizing and weight bearing for injuries to the foot area.

Brian Brock

Brian Brock (born 1970) is a Scottish/American theologian. He holds a Personal Chair in Christian Ethics at the School of Divinity, History, and Philosophy, University of Aberdeen.


A crutch is a mobility aid that transfers weight from the legs to the upper body. It is often used by people who cannot use their legs to support their weight, for reasons ranging from short-term injuries to lifelong disabilities.

Disabilities affecting intellectual abilities

There are a variety of disabilities affecting cognitive ability. This is a broad concept encompassing various intellectual or cognitive deficits, including intellectual disability (formerly called mental retardation), deficits too mild to properly qualify as intellectual disability, various specific conditions (such as specific learning disability), and problems acquired later in life through acquired brain injuries or neurodegenerative diseases like dementia.

Many of these disabilities have an effect on memory, which is the ability to recall what has been learned over time. Typically memory is moved from sensory memory to working memory, and then finally into long-term memory. People with cognitive disabilities typically will have trouble with one of these types of memory.

Discrimination in education

Discrimination in education is the act of discriminating against people belonging to certain categories in enjoying full right to education. It is considered a violation of enunciated human rights. Education discrimination can be on the basis of ethnicity, nationality, age, gender, race, economic condition, disability and religion.

The Convention against Discrimination in Education adopted by UNESCO on 14 December 1960 aims to combat discrimination and racial segregation in education. As at December 2016, 102 states were members of the Convention.

Driver rehabilitation

Driver rehabilitation is a type of rehabilitation that helps individuals facing challenges caused by a disability or age to achieve safe, independent driving or transportation options through education or information dissemination. Professionals who work in the field use adaptive equipment and modified vehicles to help people attain independent transportation.

Euro key

Euro key (German: Euroschlüssel) is a locking system, which has been introduced in 1986 by the CBF Darmstadt - Club Behinderter und Freunde in Darmstadt and environs, and is now uniform throughout Germany, Austria and Switzerland. It enables people with physical disabilities to access their handicapped facilities and facilities free of charge. For example public toilets at motorways and train stations, but also for public toilets in pedestrian zones, museums or public authorities (partly also in special elevators to ensure accessibility). A total of 12,000 locks has been fitted throughout Europe

Lift chair

Lift chairs are chairs that feature a powered lifting mechanism that pushes the entire chair up from its base and so assists the user to a standing position.

In the United States, lift chairs qualify as Durable Medical Equipment under Medicare Part B.In a February 1989 report released by the Inspector General of the US Department of Health and Human Services, it was found that: lift chairs might not possibly meet Medicare's requirements for Durable Medical Equipment (DME) and lift chair claims need to be re-regulated. The report was stimulated by an increase in lift chair claims between 1984 and 1985 from 200,000 to 700,000. A New York Times article stated that aggressive TV ads were pushing consumers to inquire about lift chairs and, once consumers called in, a form was sent to them for their physicians to sign. Some companies would ship lift chairs before receiving a physician's signature; therefore, forcing the physicians to sign or else their patient will be forced to pay for the chair.Medicare may only cover the cost of the lift-mechanism rather than the entire chair. Before Medicare can be considered for covering the cost, patients will need to have a visit with their physician to discuss the need for this particular equipment. The DME provider will then request a prescription and a certificate of medical necessity (CMN). The CMN typical involves 5 questions that the physician needs to answer. Typically, the questions are (1)Does the patient have severe arthritis, (2) Does the patient have a neuromuscular disease, (3) Is the patient incapable of getting up from a regular chair in their home, (4) Can the patient walk once standing, and (5) Have all other therapeutic measures been taken? If any of the questions are answered "NO", it may likely result in a denial of the claim.

Typically, DME providers require full payment for the lift chair and will offer reimbursement upon approval from Medicare. DME providers cannot bill Medicare without first providing the equipment.

Mobility aid

A mobility aid is a device designed to assist walking or otherwise improve the mobility of people with a mobility impairment.

There are various walking aids which can help people with impaired ability to walk and wheelchairs or mobility scooters for more severe disability or longer journeys which would otherwise be undertaken on foot. For people who are blind or visually impaired the white cane and guide dog have a long history of use. Other aids can help with mobility or transfer within a building or where there are changes of level.

Traditionally the phrase "mobility aid" has applied mainly to low technology mechanical devices. The term also appears in government documents, for example dealing with tax concessions of various kinds. It refers to those devices whose use enables a freedom of movement similar to that of unassisted walking or standing up from a chair.

Technical advances can be expected to increase the scope of these devices considerably, for example by use of sensors and audio or tactile feedback.

Patient lift

A patient lift (patient hoist, jack hoist, hydraulic lift) may be either a sling lift or sit-to-stand lift. This is an assistive device that allows patients in hospitals and nursing homes and people receiving home health care to be transferred between a bed and a chair or other similar resting places, by the use of electrical or hydraulic power. Sling lifts are used for patients whose mobility is limited. Sling lifts are mobile (or floor) lifts or overhead lifts (suspended from ceiling, wall-mounted or overhead tracks).The sling lift has several advantages. It allows heavy patients to be transferred while decreasing stress on caregivers while also reducing the number of nursing staff required to move patients. It also reduces the chance of orthopedic injury from lifting patients.Another kind of sling lift, which is called a ceiling lift, can be permanently installed on the ceiling of a room in order to save space.Mistakes using patient lifts may result in serious injury and some injuries that have been caused by improper use or malfunction of sling lifts have led to civil lawsuits.

Physical disability

A physical disability is a limitation on a person's physical functioning, mobility, dexterity or stamina. Other physical disabilities include impairments which limit other facets of daily living, such as respiratory disorders, blindness, epilepsy and sleep disorders.

Subaru TransCare

Subaru Transcare is not a specific model but rather a range of modifications available for Subaru vehicles to enable their use by elderly or disabled persons. The company featured this range at the 38th Tokyo Motor Show, 2004, under the slogan "Open all roads: Vehicles for broadening opportunities and enriching life".Available modifications include:

Hand controls enable drivers to perform braking and acceleration by hand

Seats that turn outwards, extend beyond the door frame and lower automatically with a wireless remote control

Automatic wheelchair loading with a lift that lowers to ground level and automatic sliding door

Additional belt across the chest to prevent the person from falling forward during stops

Lowered floors with steps that automatically come out when the door is opened

Ambulance style rear gurney loading with rails and bracing facilitiesTranscare modifications are available for the Legacy, Sambar, Impreza, Forester, R1 and R2.

Whirlwind wheelchair

The Whirlwind wheelchair is a wheelchair designed to be made in developing countries using local resources, in a sustainable development effort.

It was co-designed by Ralf Hotchkiss of Whirlwind Wheelchair International. Hotchkiss, a paraplegic, has traveled extensively, designing wheelchairs that could be built in developing countries.

Whirlwind Wheelchair International uses the principle of open source design, and offers construction classes and consulting services.

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