Photo courtesy of disabilityisbeautiful.com
What is dignity? By definition, dignity is the state or quality of being worthy of honor or respect.
To have a proper understanding of dignity we must understand the difference between respect and dignity.
Respect comes from the Latin word respectus, meaning “to look back at.” Acknowledging someone because of their abilities, qualities, and achievements. Respect is earned.
Dignity comes from the Latin word dignitas, meaning “to be worthy.” Everyone has the right to be acknowledged for their inherent humanity and treated ethically. Dignity is given.
We extend dignity to others through our beliefs and our actions towards others.
If we believe that others are “lesser than” ourselves then our actions towards them will follow suit. The natural result is stolen dignity.
If we believe that others are “equal to or greater than” ourselves our actions towards them will follow suit. The natural result will be extended dignity. Let us not forget the words of Jesus when he said, “Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.” (John 13:34) Or when Jesus said, “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you.” (Matthew 7:12)
So, if we are all extending dignity to others the way Jesus commanded then why are so many still being robbed of their dignity?
I would contend that we are not in fact, loving well.
Let me give you an example.
I want you to imagine that you have a disabling condition that requires you need full assistance in the restroom. You are out in public and nature calls. You need to go to a public restroom because returning home is not an option. Unfortunately, there are no restrooms with an adult-sized changing table in them so your loved one or caregiver must lay on the dirty public restroom floor in full sight of others coming in to use the restroom.
How are you feeling right now? Do you feel that you have been treated with dignity?
Angela Merkel once said, “When it comes to human dignity, we cannot make compromises.” She could not have been more correct. Yet society has made plenty of compromises. The ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) that was signed into law in 1990 required that all public restrooms have an infant-sized changing table present. But what happens when a child with disabilities outgrows that infant-sized changing table? Their dignity is robbed from them.
Lack of accessibility robs people of their dignity.
This should not be!
Why does this happen? There are many reasons… ignorance, desire to save money on needed accessibility renovations, lack of respect, etc.
If we believe that all of humanity is worthy of dignity, then our actions and advocacy efforts should follow suit.
How can you make a difference? Lobby for change. Call upon your congressional leaders, local business owners, churches, etc. to extend dignity to others by installing adult-sized changing tables.
We know that it can be difficult to talk about what goes on in the bathroom. That is why we created a resource called “The Tale of the Shrinking Toilets.” It is a book that you can purchase and give to your local leaders to help break the ice about this important issue of accessibility. We also have created advocacy tools and a scholarship fund for businesses and churches to use in their efforts to become more accessible. To find these, head over to https://www.shrinkingtoilets.com/
Remember true accessibility extends dignity to others. If you are not affording people their dignity how can you extend the love of Christ to them with any sincerity?
It is Ryan’s passion to equip and empower churches, organizations, and individuals to reach their disability communities for Jesus. Ryan comes to Ability Ministry with 15+ years of ministry experience. He previously worked at First Christian Church in Canton, Ohio as their full-time Disability Pastor. He also worked as a Church Consultant for Key Ministry. Micah 6:8 and Proverbs 31:8 best describe Ryan’s commitment to life and ministry.