Sangita* didn’t know anyone in her class at university, and the other students seemed to shy away from her, as if afraid of her wheelchair. All except Rebecca* who, it turned out, had a sister who was a wheelchair user and felt perfectly comfortable befriending Sangita.
Rebecca went for coffee with Sangita, spent time working together with her in the library, and invited her along to a Christian student group. Sangita had grown up blamed for her disability which she was taught was the result of bad karma from her previous life. But in the Christian students she was introduced to, she found friends who accepted and valued her. She even went on their group’s weekend away and although she hasn’t made a commitment to Christ she has been introduced to his love, and who knows where this spiritual journey will take her?
There are 230,000 disabled students in UK universities
50% of universities in the UK have admitted that not all their inter-campus transport is accessible. Only half of our universities have all their teaching rooms and libraries accessible. 30% of campus social and leisure facilities are inaccessible to students with mobility impairments and 75% of UK universities admitted not considering disabled students when planning Freshers’ Week.
When students seek help in overcoming these difficulties, they are frequently referred to counselling, as if the problem lay with them rather than the barriers in the environment on our campuses. Although shocking, this is perhaps not surprising as it’s all going on against a backdrop of a more than 300% increase in disability hate crimes since 2010.
What a great opportunity for Christian students and the churches that support them. The Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization found that between 90% and 95% of disabled people die without ever hearing the Good News of a Saviour who loves them and died to redeem them. Here on our university campuses, Christian students have a unique ability to reach out to their disabled peers with the love of God. Research shows that people who come to faith in Jesus while they are students usually continue to follow Him and become an important part of the church for the rest of their lives. Jesus said that without disabled people His house is not full (Luke 14.21-23). How great to be able to play a part in fulfilling Jesus’ vision of a Church where disabled people belong and participate.
Through the roof
Christian Disability charity Through the Roof has produced a student guide to help Christian student groups welcome disabled students. Be a Roofbreaker- Student Edition is available to download for £3. Visit us online, email, telephone 01372 749955, follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to find out more about how we can help.
*Not their real names