Differently Abled Friends and Allies is a working group, under the care of New York Yearly Meeting, where people with or without disabilities can come together and learn from one another’s experiences. “I think Quakers are open to discussing things… but sometimes they have to be prompted,” says Nichole Nettleton, who joined DAFA for support in living with her disabilities, but has become an active facilitator of the group’s work.
“Because they don’t know, they’re not sure, they don’t want to offend someone,” Nichole elaborates, noting that people who have disabilities often want to discuss their experiences. “They want to be asked; they want to be included.… When it’s not brought up, when it’s intentionally avoided, it gets really awkward, and it makes it feel like they can’t talk about it.”
Nichole offers guidance on how Quakers can be more supportive of members and seekers with disabilities: “Be there for people. Be intentional. And being there doesn’t always mean doing something every minute. It can mean listening, just like when you’re in meeting for worship—the silence is not passive; it’s a very active thing.”
Nichole has also shared her story in a Friends Journal interview.
(In this video, Nichole uses the terms “differently abled” and “people with disabilities” interchangeably. Other people with disabilities may find “differently abled” offensive. If you’re not sure how to talk to someone about their condition, follow Nichole’s advice and ask respectfully!)
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I think that Quakers are open to discussing things about different abilities. But sometimes they have to be prompted because they don’t know. They’re not sure. They don’t want to send someone. But I found with people who have disabilities that they want to be asked, they want to be included. When it’s not brought up, when it’s like intentionally avoided, it gets really awkward and it makes it feel like they can’t talk about it, which, I know, is not the intended purpose.
My name is Nicole Nettleton and I live in Freeville, New York. I attend the Ithaca meeting and I kind of avoiding pronouns right now. I have autism and it’s considered a communication problem, but I find out that I can communicate a lot better than a lot of people who don’t have communication problems. Like, diagnosed communication problems. I think that I’m intentional about trying to communicate. Instead of ignoring what I don’t understand I ask questions and I try to do it in respectful ways and people appreciate it.
I think the Quaker community can support differently abled people as well as regular members. Be there for people, be intentional. And being there doesn’t always mean doing something every minute. It can mean listening. Just like when you’re in meeting for worship. The silence is not passive. It’s a very active thing and people feel that. Remember that everybody is different. And some people it’s just more different than others in certain ways and try to be inclusive
Differently Abled Friends and Allies is a, well, it’s a subgroup that New York Yearly Meeting. And I did not start it. And the whole point isn’t about the disabilities, it’s about connecting to people. You don’t have to be disabled to be in this group. I want everybody to come to this group because people should be aware of each other and what each other is dealing with and how they can help.
Dealing with disabilities, it’s really easy to slip into kind of negative feelings about the world and things, and you have to work really hard to hold onto anything. Anything good that makes you happy, anything good that makes you feel lighter, makes you feel positive. You hold on to all those things. And I do that through music. And one of the ones I was listening to was a song by JJ Heller:
🎶Trees are made for climbing,
these days are made for sun;
puddles made for jumping,
fields are made to run.
Stars are made for counting,
and my wish is coming true.
Sleep is made for dreaming,
and I have dreams for you.
May you never lose the wonder in your soul.
May you always have a blanket for the cold.
May the living light inside you be the compass as you go
Oh, may you always know you have my hand to hold.🎶
- How do we do better by our Friends with disabilities?
The views expressed in this video are of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Friends Journal or its collaborators.