WASHINGTON (June 28, 2000) -- The presence of persons living with disabilities within the Catholic Church will be highlighted at Encuentro 2000: Many Faces in God's House, July 6-9, at the Los Angeles Convention Center.
Speakers at the event will include Arvilla Rank, Executive Director of the National Catholic Office for the Deaf, and Don Rosen Kjar, of Tolucca Lake, California. They will lead a workshop on Deafness As a Culture, a session designed to heighten people's awareness of the deaf community and the gift that it offers. Participants will also learn how to be more inclusive of the deaf community through networking and sharing resources.
Other speakers include Mary Jane Owen, Executive Director, National Catholic Office for Persons With Disabilities, Washington; Jackie Camp, Employment Specialist, ABLE-DISABLED Advocacy, Inc, San Luis Rey, California; and Denise Porche, Coordinator, Office of Persons With Disabilities, Catholic Social Services, Fall River, Massachusetts. They will offer a workshop on efforts of a national network that advocates for persons with disabilities and will share insights, principles, and lessons learned while challenging participants to join the effort.
To assure persons with disabilities that they are welcome at Encuentro 2000, program materials have stressed efforts to guarantee access to all. There will be wheelchair-accessible shuttle service between convention hotels and the convention center; real-time captioning of all general session and liturgies; assistive listening devices and accessible restrooms and meeting facilities.
Ms. Owen commended Encuentro 2000 organizers for their recognition of disability as a distinct culture.
"In 1986, the first national survey of non-institutionalized Americans with disabilities was conducted by Louis Harris and Associates. The survey results showed a clear sign of an emerging group consciousness, with 74 percent of Americans with disabilities reporting that they felt some level of common identity, regardless of disabling condition, age or severity. Subsequent surveys have shown a steady increase in awareness of shared concerns and issues, for the most part based on awareness of discrimination and oppression. Is this not a powerful component of a culture?"
Statistics from the National Catholic Office for Persons With Disabilities suggest that there are more than 10 million Catholics in the United States with disabilities. Of them, 5.4 million have a physical disability, such as an orthopedic impairment, neuromotor or muscular disability. Less than one percent have sensory disabilities, such as blindness or deafness; and 300,000 have mental retardation.
An estimated half million Catholics are classified as mentally ill and 2.6 million other Catholics have assorted health problems which limit one or more of their daily living functions. There are an estimated 60 million Catholics in the United States.
Encuentro 2000 is the key jubilee gathering for the Catholic Church in the United States.
It is expected to draw upwards of 4,000 persons who claim more than 150 nations of origin. General sessions wil be translated into Spanish, Korean, Vietnamese and Tongan. American Sign Language interpreters have been provided for participants requesting assistance.