Impairment usually signifies an abnormality or loss of physiological form or function. For example, a damaged optical nerve would be impairment.


Disability describes the consequences of the impairment, which may be an inability to perform some task or activity. In this example, the disability might be an inability to see.


Handicap literally means “to hinder” or “to place at a disadvantage”. Society handicaps persons with impairments by not making modifications or diverse accessibility available. A person with a visual impairment is not handicapped by being in the dark, but society, by not creating accessible options, creates barriers that handicap a person when they cannot navigate the world as persons without an impairment might. Handicapping, therefore, lies in society's lack of attention and response to diverse impairments, rather than handicaps existing within a person. Our hypothetical friend with the impairment of a damaged optical nerve would not be handicapped if elevator buttons were marked in Braille or distinct sounds became audible to let people know when to cross a busy street. (Disability and Christian Theology, pg. 13-14)

Open Minority

Disability is an Open Minority because it is a group that most us will “join” at some point in our lives. How many of you have ever had surgery or an injury and were unable to do some basic daily tasks afterward? How many of you wear glasses or contacts? How many of you have had an inner ear infection and the room started spinning when you went from sitting to standing quickly?

Limits Model

Limits Model is a preferred model for looking at disability in the church. Where the Medical Model looks for a physical cure, and the Social Model looks for ways people can fit in the social expectations we have set, the limits model looks at our limited bodies and functionality through the course of our lifetime.  Limits Model seeks to create space for each individual to be seen and heard for their inherent dignity and worth, regardless of their difference or disability. This Model works to find ways for every person to be fully engaged in the life of the community. For many of us it is hard to accept that our own bodies have limitations and can at any moment not function as we expect it to due to injury or aging. When we work with persons who are impaired or have a disability, we want to make certain that they feel honored, valuable, and respected.

Person First Language

Person First Language puts the person before any classifier and thereby honors the person, their gifts, skills, and presence first. Instead of saying an “autistic kid” we would say a child with autism. Instead of saying a “blind man” we would say a man who is blind or has a visual impairment. Person-first language is extremely important to remember as it honors the person with whom or about whom you are speaking.

Ministry With

Ministry With means we are engaging individuals where they are so that they may participate with all of themselves in ministries where they are passionate and knowledgeable. Each person is seen as valuable, wisdom-giving, and crucial to the life of the group or congregation.

Ministry By

Ministry By is created space for persons to dream and lead ministry out of their specific gifts, abilities, talents, vision, and experience. Each person is seen as valuable, capable of leadership, and crucial to the vision and values of ministry in the congregation and community.

Nothing About Us Without Us

Nothing About Us Without Us is a common phrase used to remind persons without impairments never talk about or make plans for persons with disabilities without including them in the conversation and positioning them to take leadership of the conversation. Always make certain that persons with disabilities are at the table and leading the conversation when you are discussing anything about disability ministry!