Arts & Culture: Diversity Dialogue

Cultural Diversity and Inclusion in the Arts in New York State’s Southern Tier

Disability/or holistic healing


Connie has invited me to contribute to the diversity blog. I’ve never blogged so this is a new medium of communication. Since the blog is about diversity I will introduce myself and my background with diversity. I am a frustrated photographer and artist who used cooking as a form of artistic expression, and am now attempting to use it in gardening.

I am a woman, mother and grandmother, Episcopal priest, psychologist, Spiritual Director, educator, serious cook, art, music and book lover, environmentalist, gardener, and I happen to live with very mild cerebral palsy. CP is not my only or most important characteristic; nor does it define who I am.

Nevertheless, others have often used disability as their defining parameters of my abilities and limitations. After I was ordained priest in April 1984, I served as the founder and director of a Diocesan Ministry about disability. As the first women with a congenital disability to be ordained in the Episcopal Church, I was blazing a trail through a wilderness of inaccessibility, negative attitudes and expectations, and biblical and theological landmines. Within a year I had developed an educational program for local parishes, diocesan boards and committees and drafting national church resolutions toward creating a more welcoming and inclusive church. I lectured, preached, and led workshops all across America, leading to working with the National Council of Churches and World Council of Churches in writing and developing theological position papers about people with disabilities in the life of the Church.

The goals of the ministry were to create a fully welcoming and inclusive church since “The Ramp Is Not Enough!” Ramps do not make churches accessible; ramps may get you into a building but there is no point in being there if you are not welcome and included. People with disabilities are not only physically excluded but we are psychologically and spiritually alienated from participation in the fullness of life in the community (Steele) because faith communities have adopted society’s prejudices toward people with disabilities. These prejudices include fear, ignorance, patronization, and negative attitudes which keep people from participating in the life of the community. Communities that are not inclusive are incomplete, unhealthy, and are not practicing the beliefs which it teaches. Barriers always convey the “message that some people are more valuable or worthy than others, that disability equals incompetence and inferiority (G. Christy).” In a just community there are no inferior people, no barriers, no insensitivity to, or perpetuation of, the numerous subtle forms of oppression.

The diocesan ministry was funded for 4 years, and plans were developed and implemented to establish a national program. However, programming and budget cuts intervened. My personal goals had always involved developing and using my many gifts, abilities and interests that had little or nothing to do with issues of disability.

My undergraduate studies in Jungian psychology and spirituality had fed my interest and curiosity in holistic models of medicine, psychology, spirituality and living. When I discovered a doctoral research program that would permit me to integrate these fields of study in an academic degree program, I began an amazing and rewarding journey of study, learning, and personal growth.

My doctoral program included a year of study as a Visiting Scholar at Oxford University, where I was introduced to the Holistic Healing Centre’s in England. A second scholarship made it possible for me and a research assistant to study at twelve of these centre’s the following year. This work led me to study MindBody Medicine when I returned to America. My continuing education has led to the study of environmental factors and food safety as they directly affect health, diseases, and the ability to heal. I integrate this information with my training as a Jungian psychotherapist and Spiritual Director for an integrated , holistic approach to treating the whole person in their quest for a healthy, healed life.

Currently I am integrating these approaches in a new garden, begun last summer. My artistic goals are to create a space of beauty, quiet, and peace in a non-toxic environment built of plants and elements that are acquired through sharing, reuse, repurpose, re-gift, or redesign of others! I hope to eventually open the garden for people needing a safe, quiet place of retreat and/or prayer 1-2 days a month.

I will respond to whatever is of further interest to readers. I believe diversity is a necessary condition or ingredient of healthy living and to creating a community where peace, love and beauty are the fruits of welcome and inclusion. All of us have experiences which can contribute to our living a fuller and more meaningful life. People who live with disability or other ‘difference’ have much to teach those who are fearful of difference or limitation. Together we create a more colorful and abundant garden.

Nancy Lane

2 comments on “Disability/or holistic healing

  1. Dr. Nancy Lane
    March 31, 2009

    Hello again,

    It has been suggested that I write about access to the arts for people w/disabilities. I have to confess that I avoided this in the first blog, probably because my last effort to resolve an accessible issue was met with silence until I made several requests for a response. I will begin with this experience but will preface it with appreciation for the many accessible design features of the remodeled Clemens Center as well as efforts by OSFL to provide access to music for seniors who don’t drive and/or can’t afford tickets.

    I have spoken to the Clemens Center and parking garage personnel many times over the last twenty two years about accessible parking for ticket holders. Parking garage’s are generally a problem for many women with disabilities or who are elderly and traveling alone. Most of the handicap spaces are above the first floor, requiring one to use the elevator. Women who are perceived as vulnerable, and may in fact be physically vulnerable, are fearful of being attacked. Most people w/disabilities fear additional disability so may be unwilling to take the risks involved in using the parking garage. The alternatives are to park at Star Gazette and cross a four lane highway. This may be hazardous for people who fall easily, have difficulty walking or use a wheelchair (no curb cut in the median). It is very difficult to find available on street parking or parking in the lot under the viaduct as there are no (or perhaps one) designated handicap spaces. Consequently I don’t purchase season tickets for many programs as I cannot risk falling on icy walks or crossing CC Parkway.

    I had a season ticket for OSFL the 07-08 year, at Norte Dame and CMG. Parking at ND was equally difficult as there were no handicap parking spaces available near the entrance to ND. Although I arrived 45 minutes early there were no available handicap spaces. I found one handicap symbol on the pavement (occupied) but no upright signs to designate handicap parking spaces, although they are mandated by the ADA (Federal law 1990). Thus, I parked close to the porch in the fire lane.

    One of the concerts occurred during a storm that coated the steps, walk, and drive with ice. There was no hand rail on the steps so I tried to use the upright poles to help me down the steps. The ground level was all ice but I made it to stepping off the curb (no curb cuts) whereupon I fell, and injured my back. Because of disability, every fall is serious; it not only upsets the CNS and body, it may also cause further injury. For whatever reasons, no one had spread salt to prevent people w/disabilities and elderly from falling.

    I wrote to the Orchestra (& copy to ND) to inform them of my fall and to make several suggestions for increased sensitivity in regards to several accessibility issues:

    “I’m sure it was difficult to find suitable, affordable concert space with the Clemens Center closed. The auditorium at ND is reasonably accessible and OSFL surely appreciates its availability. However, it does not meet the ADA requirements for accessibility in terms of parking and an accessible entrance. I am fully aware that religious institutions are not required to follow the ADA

    The OSFL has an obligation to be fully accessible to all in the community. One third of every community is living with a disability. 95% of those living past age 65 (a rapidly growing number) will experience disability as will an increasing number of people injured by technology, medicine, accident, and war. Many of these disabilities are not visible (head injury, heart disease, diabetes, vision impairments, and neurological conditions). Like many people w/disabilities and seniors, I studied music and want to support the OSFL and its musicians. I live with a disability and expect facilities and programs to be accessible and inclusive.

    The solution I can suggest is to borrow upright parking signs and a reliable hand rail for the steps for future concerts at ND. Ideally, ND would address accessibility but I realize that isn’t for you or I to decide. I would also make one further suggestion: that musicians, choristers, staff, and families not use the handicap parking because they are late, in a hurry, or inconsiderate. This appears to have been the case at youth concerts for the last three years.

    The last youth concert in Corning was in an inaccessible church: no ramp, too many steps, no nearby handicap parking, no handicap bathroom. Again, some thought needs to be given to OSFL accessibility. Accessibility also includes print materials. Vision impairments are common as people age. The post cards announcing concerts this year were completely unreadable. The tiny pink print on dark purple background cannot be seen by many people. Larger print and better contrast between print and background are required for print accessibility.

    These issues and suggestions may seem like a huge bother to people (e.g. board and staff) stretching budgets, scrambling for space, unable to imagine disability or infirmity, or wanting to be artistic without constraints. However, these issues affect your bottom line. People with disabilities, their families, and people over 65 have money to spend for arts and programs. Accessibility is important; without it you eliminate and shut out possible donors to OSFL.

    I hope reasonable accommodation can be made prior to future concerts. If I can be of constructive help in resolving these issues or educating skeptics and resisters, I am willing to offer my knowledge and experience.” [end of quoted letter]

    Visiting The Arnot Art Museum and galleries in Corning can be difficult. As I recall, the Arnot’s accessible entrance is at the rear and not close to handicap parking. I haven’t used it so may be wrong about parking space. The steps are so problematic that I very rarely go there.

    The West End Gallery is equally difficult to visit for openings. Corning has several handicap parking spots on Market St. and if one drive’s around long enough may be able to park within a short walking distance, but not always. Although I have ventured up the stairs a few times, it is painful and difficult to do so I don’t go as often as I prefer. The stairs make it virtually impossible for people with limited mobility or who use wheel chairs or scooters to view art work upstairs.

    Finally, vision and hearing loss affect many seniors as well as people with certain disabilities. Attending many talks and musical events becomes difficult for people with hearing impairments when conductors or other announcers fail to use a microphone. Too often one will say ‘I don’t need a microphone with my voice. Microphones and speaker system are rarely for the speakers benefit; they are primarily for the benefit of attendees who want to hear what is being said, sung or played. Seniors generally have some hearing loss and rarely admit it. However, if they can’t hear, they eventually stop attending which is another loss to them and a loss of revenue for the program. Likewise, printed materials in fine print, or colored and on colored paper, may be too difficult or impossible to read. The internet provides numerous resources for tips on how to make your print materials accessible to ALL people.

    Accessibility is about welcome and inclusion of all people from babies in strollers to seniors using assistive devices for mobility, vision, and hearing. Accessibility is never simply about people in wheelchairs; it is about making all of life accessible in our architecture, communications, and attitudes of welcome and inclusion.

  2. Akua
    April 2, 2009

    I am new to this parallel universe of disability I now inhabit and I deeply appreciate your insights and comments. I lived in Rochester while undergoing rehab and I am still in shock and pain over the lack of basic
    access throughout our community. I was disappointed that access to CFA
    (for example) involved a poorly paved labyrinthine journey, and a claustrophobic elevator to get to the auditorium. I’ve seen ramps that
    required Herculean efforts to mount, and then there’s the challenge of getting there, getting anywhere. So thank you. I take comfort from your
    words, that I am not singular and alone in hoping that the community
    will join the 21st century, design, plan and program accessibly.

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