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Coming Home: My Journey to RespectAbility

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Ben Bond

When I was offered the Faith Inclusion and Belonging Associate position at RespectAbility, I felt I was coming home. The intersectionality of faith inclusion and disability is at the heart of my calling, woven through the very fabric of my being.

I have lived with dyslexia my whole life (what an ironically hard word to spell). When I was in high school, I sustained a physical injury which caused severe constant, chronic, and debilitating pain. The obstacles I encountered with a physical disability made me become intimately and undeniably aware of the physical manifestations of ableism.

As an undergraduate major in religious studies receiving disability accommodations I investigated the connections between disability and spirituality in a multifaith context. I continued that journey at Yale Divinity School and began asking questions about disability and Christian traditions. I was both disheartened and encouraged. I was heartbroken as I came to terms with the ways Christianity was instrumental in constructing the current systems of ableism which are pervasive in western society. I was also curious about ways Christianity could be a site of liberation and transformation for disabled people, faith communities, and institutions.

In that spirit, I co-founded DivineAbilities, Yale Divinity School’s first Disability student organization. The organization centered the experiences of disabled seminary students. It also held space for disabled students to process the grief and religious trauma they may have experienced in faith communities. DivineAbilities was also invested in reconciliation for disabled people by discerning how faith communities could be loci for disability liberation.

I was hired as the Accessibility Chaplain for Marquand Chapel at Yale Divinity School. I evaluated the accessibility of daily worship services and created anti-ableist resources to achieve long-term accessibility. I uplifted the invaluable wisdom and knowledge disabled people bring to faith spaces. Disabled people are essential teachers for non-disabled people on how to embrace the joys and challenges that come with vulnerability and interdependence which is essential for the well-being of all faith communities. These lessons are at the heart of my ministry in all contexts and are values I plan to teach and embody here at RespectAbility.

As the Faith Inclusion and Belonging Associate, I am thrilled to explore these topics further across faith and spiritual traditions through our webinars, conferences, podcasts, social media, consulting, newsletters, advocacy, and so much more. I look forward to serving this community by growing it into an even more vibrant and diverse space. I hope you will join Shelly and me on this journey. May we be blessed as we continue to journey together toward disability justice and inclusion in our faith communities.

Meet the Author

Ben Bond

Rev. Ben Bond (He/They) is the Faith Inclusion and Belonging Associate at RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of community.

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