Over the last several years, many progressive faith-based organizations have undertaken major diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) projects. These include the Racial Justice Audit of Episcopal Church Leadership, initiated by General Convention in 2015 and undertaken on the ground beginning in 2018; a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Audit recommended by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) in 2018; and the Godly Play Foundation’s Beloved Me, Beloved We Equity Audit, which has received coverage here at Building Faith and in which I participated as a member of the Equity Audit team.
This recent DEI work undertaken by these organizations and many others has created a posture of self-reflection within our broader community and an openness to conversation about what we could do better. It is within this context, then, that I came to undertake a disability-focused content audit for Building Faith, drawing on my work as a Christian formation professional, my scholarly background in disability studies, and my lived experience as someone with multiple disabilities.
The Needs That Catalyzed Building Faith’s Disability Audit
In October of 2021, I wrote an article for Building Faith called “Neurodiversity in the Classroom: Creating a More Inclusive Sunday School.” The topic was of vital importance to me, and I was excited to bring that content to Building Faith readers. I wanted to ensure that I wasn’t reinventing the wheel, so I paged through the site’s existing content covering topics related to disability and inclusion. I noticed a few things.
First, there wasn’t much information in the disability and inclusion content area. Yes, there was a category tag for what was, at the time, marked “Special Needs,” but the handful of articles under that heading spanned almost a decade. It was clearly an area that needed more attention in order for faith leaders to serve disabled congregants and community members well.
Second, there were many recommendations among the existing articles that are not considered best practices anymore. Both scientific and social understandings of disability have been changing rapidly in the last few years. Keeping up with those conversations can’t (and really shouldn’t have to) be everyone’s top priority. However, as a key source of information, I believe it is important for Building Faith’s content to reflect these changes in the field.
The Audit Process
Over the last several months, I had the privilege of reviewing all of Building Faith’s disability-related content. I identified gaps, outdated advice, and other trouble spots in articles. I provided feedback on existing content and edits as appropriate. I developed a robust style guide outlining the most widely agreed upon language. I also offered recommendations for additional articles, new writers, and access-centered technical modifications to the Building Faith website.
I want to thank Sarah Allred for her openness to my initial concerns back in October of 2021. Initial meetings with Sarah as well as Katherine Malloy were a vital part of envisioning what became the Building Faith Disability and Inclusion Audit. I am also grateful to the current leadership at Building Faith, particularly Jodi Belcher, for providing the institutional support and critical technical management for this work.
Disability and Inclusion Changes Ahead
So what does all this mean for Building Faith’s disability and inclusion content?
You may notice some shifts in language at Building Faith. You’ll hopefully see more regular contributions from a diverse slate of writers addressing disability-related topics. Some of that has been in the works since my first exchanges with Sarah when the old “Special Needs” category label became “Disability and Inclusion.” This isn’t a big, splashy transformation, but it is the small, vital changes that serve to better support disabled community members, reduce stigma, and create the Beloved Community.
To find out more about Bird Treacy’s consulting work or to contact her, you can visit her website, A Bird In Church Consulting.