The Vanderbilt Kennedy University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (VKC UCEDD) provides leadership and administrative support to a national collaborative of UCEDDs engaging in research, training, and services related to disability, religion, and supports for inclusion in faith communities. A monthly webinar series produced by the group, which began in October and runs through May 2018, encourages consideration of the spiritual needs of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and provides real world examples of individuals and agencies dedicated to promoting opportunities for that expression.
“We founded the Collaborative on Faith and Disability in 2011 so that we could share best practices in the field of disability and religion,” said Erik Carter, Ph.D., professor of special education, VKC member, and vice-chair of the Collaborative. “In 2015, we began planning and coordinating a series of webinars, and quickly found the webinar format to be a highly effective way to share compelling opportunities to support people with disabilities and their families to meaningfully engage in congregational life. From agencies that support people with disabilities whose spiritual needs haven’t been considered to congregations that may not yet know how to be welcoming, the webinars focus on ways to increase opportunities for people to share their gifts and talents in ways that are personally valued and that strengthen faith communities.”
The theme of the 2017-18 series is New Pathways and Collaborations at the Intersection of Faith and Disability. In October, the series focused on the topic of respite care and highlighted a partnership between a UCEDD in Colorado and a nonprofit that delivers respite care in several congregations. The November webinar presented information on the Putting Faith to Work project, which is a practical model Carter developed for tapping into the social capital, creativity, and commitment within a congregation to connect people with disabilities to meaningful work. The final webinar addressed the crucial role that UCEDDs can play in providing and promoting inclusive, person-centered spiritual supports.
The new year will bring a fresh range of new topics, including Jewish Disability Awareness Month (January 17), best practices in inclusion (February 21), the work of a regional interfaith network (March 21), a faith and disability graduate certificate program (April 18), and person-centered pastoral care (May 16).
Registration for upcoming webinars will open soon on the Collaborative on Faith and Disability website, where past webinars also may be accessed.
The mission of the Collaborative on Faith and Disability is to support people with disabilities, their families, and those who support them by providing national and international leadership in the areas of research, education, service, and dissemination related to disability, religion, and inclusive supports.
Courtney Taylor is associate director of VKC Communications and Dissemination.