Recently a friend of mine sent me a 25-minute video in the mail titled “We Will Not Be Hidden” about disabled Muslims and the (lack of) accessibility in mosques. Most of those who spoke in the video made points I had heard; then one woman mentioned that she would love to actively contribute to her spiritual community and attend important meetings, but could hardly even ever participate in regular activities because she is deaf.
A realization struck me: of course I was aware of the complaints of disabled Muslims elsewhere—but I had subconsciously believed, all these years, that the reason we don’t have ramps or accessible restrooms in my own community is that we didn’t need them because there were no disabled Muslims.
That this is a sudden recognition, something that should be the most obvious and logical thing the world, is shameful. Of course I never see disabled Muslims at the mosque. How would a Muslim utilizing a wheelchair reach the prayer area upstairs? What good is it for Muslim who is deaf to attend sermons that are only orally spoken? Regardless of how much they may wish to attend and participate, disabled Muslims are barricaded and in their forced absence invisible to me.
But the most disturbing part of all about the video, is a man who described his mosque as using the only accessible restroom for storage, even though he regularly attended the congregation. After he had contributed to creating the video, as my friend informed me (he knows the man), his community shunned him. All he had said is that he would appreciate an accessible restroom! He hadn’t even disclosed in the video the name of the mosque or the state in which it is located. He had to leave the state for spiritual fulfillment.
He had to leave his state. For spiritual fulfillment. Because he mentioned in a video that his mosque used the only accessible restroom for storage.
I can’t get over how outrageously heartless this is. What’s wrong with us?
“The Prophet said people with disabilities are a natural part of the Ummah,” a woman in the video stated sadly.
My how things have changed.