I Have a Disability
Answers for common questions related to disability.
Between personal care costs and adapting your living space, living with a disability can be a significant drain on your financial resources. It can also be difficult to ask for assistance, whether from friends or organizations. Be sure to share your needs with your pastor, inviting your church to walk alongside of you.
You can also research Social Security Disability benefits that may be available to you. Allsup can help you with that. And be sure to connect with your nearest Joni and Friends location for information on other local financial assistance. In many parts of the country, you can dial 2-1-1 on your telephone to learn about local assistance agencies. You can also find the Independent Living Center nearest you for additional direction.
Resources: Area Ministries, Joni's Blog: Are You in Need of a Ramp?, Home Modifications for Wheelchair Accessibility, Disability: When it First Touches Your Family, Joni and Friends TV: I'd Rather Be in this Wheelchair Knowing Him...
If you are looking for disability-related resources in your community, consider contacting the Joni and Friends location nearest you. Not only will you be connected with local resources and churches who minister to families affected by disability, but you may also make some great new friends!
You may already be familiar with Independent Living Centers, where you can obtain local information and referrals, independent living skills training, advocacy, and peer counseling. In many parts of the country, you can dial 2-1-1 on your telephone to learn about local assistance agencies. You can also learn more about a variety of disability-related organizations nearby through the extensive state-by-state lists provided by United Cerebral Palsy.
You can begin your research with a visit to vehicle brand websites. Many major car companies have a section on their websites with information about adapting their vehicles and some include information on financial assistance. Your nearest Joni And Friends location may have more information regarding local sources for accessible vans. Check with your state’s government-funded occupational and vocational rehabilitation services which help people with disabilities integrate into work and community life. Also, Disabled Dealer is a great place to start looking for the used accessible van that is right for you. And, as a reminder, driving in a wheelchair is a unique experience that requires training. The Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists can help you locate specialized driver training near you.
One more thought, don’t automatically rule out public transportation or ride share programs. Contact your state’s department of transportation for information about routes and schedules. If there are not accessible options available in your area, petition for your needs.
Joni often acknowledges the unique challenges of an invisible disability because it is so difficult for others to identify and understand. The disabilities may be invisible, but they are so very real! We highly recommend two encouraging resources Joni has written, both of which take a close look at our suffering and how it fits into God’s sovereign plans: Pain and Providence and A Place of Healing. Also, Joni appeared on a special episode of the John Ankerberg Show, exploring How God Can Help You Deal with Chronic Pain, Disability, and Illness.
On the Joni and Friends Ministry Podcast, Crystal talks with Hallie Sheaffer about her experience with fibromyalgia. Hear how this hidden disability affects her daily activities, people’s perceptions of her, and what she has found helpful in her community of support.
Focus on the Family offers a very insightful series of articles written by Mary J. Yerkes entitled “Living with Chronic Pain and Illness.” In these articles, Yerkes explores the effects of chronic illness on individuals, how they discover joy through the Lord, and what the Bible says about pain and suffering. You may also find encouragement through Rest Ministries, a ministry to the chronically ill. Other organizations such as the American Chronic Pain Association may help you provide medical information for your family and friends.
There are many sources for wheelchairs and disability equipment within the United States. For well-refurbished disability equipment, look into Friends of Disabled Adults and Children. For reasonably priced new and used adaptive equipment, check out Disabled Dealer, an online classified ad service. If you are looking for inexpensive used wheelchairs and equipment, we recommend checking local ministries like Goodwill and Salvation Army. Your nearest Joni and Friends location may be familiar with an individual nearby who would like to loan or donate a used wheelchair, or recommend a local medical equipment loan organization that could lend you a wheelchair until other arrangements can be made.
Due to liability issues and industry standards, Joni and Friends does not provide wheelchairs in the US. However, we do gratefully accept donations of manual wheelchairs, pediatric wheelchairs, walkers, crutches, and canes. These items are restored and distributed internationally through Wheels for the World. You can be a part of the action by collecting used wheelchairs as a Chair Corps volunteer or by joining one of our distribution teams!
Know that you are not alone and there is hope. Joni also struggled with depression when she was first injured. She often recommends Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure by Dr. David Martyn Lloyd-Jones. This book offers scriptural references as a way to overcome depression. Also, take a walk through the Psalms. There we read how David struggled with depression and anger and took his emotions to the Lord. God was faithful to give him hope, as He will for you as you seek Him!
Browse this list of ways to fight depression and be inspired by Ron and Bev Huckabee’s story Get Busy Living from Joni’s award-winning television series. We also suggest you browse at length the website for Rest Ministries, a ministry which offers spiritual encouragement to people with chronic illnesses. And lastly, Focus on the Family has a wonderful hotline with trained counselors ready to offer advice and Christian encouragement to their callers. If your depression persists, seek professional medical attention. Your doctor will be able to assess whether you may be affected by clinical depression, which should not be ignored or taken lightly.
We are so glad you sense His call to ministry on your life. It is such a blessing to serve the Lord!
While your disability may include certain limitations, consider what gifts, talents, and experience you do have. Look for opportunities where these gifts and talents are needed. Talk to your pastor and church leadership, asking them to be on the lookout for places for you to serve. You may even want to connect with your local community center and inquire about volunteer opportunities.
If you are interested, you can join the Joni and Friends prayer team praying for our ministries and our many friends. Connect with the Joni and Friends location nearest you to find out about needs you can meet. And perhaps you’d consider volunteering at one of our Family Retreats or helping on a Wheels for the World distribution! Check out the related links on the right for additional ideas.
A cancer diagnosis can be a devastating blow. “Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might” (Ephesians 6:10). You are not alone! Lean into Him! We highly recommend you ask your doctor about support groups in your area. Also, let your pastor or your church’s caregiving ministries know about your situation. Enlist their help for any upcoming needs you may have.
Before taking a lot of time to read up on your cancer diagnosis online, take time to root yourself and your family in truths from God’s Word. In Cancer: Joni’s Journey and Diagnosed with Breast Cancer: Life after shock, Joni shares her own personal journey with breast cancer and some of the insights she gained.
Cancer can be expensive. The American Cancer Society offers an excellent list of resources available to cancer patients. Cleaning for a Reason can connect you with donated services from local housecleaning companies while you are undergoing cancer treatment. And, Cancer Care offers free professional services to anyone affected by cancer.
Psalm 62:5-6 says, “Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.” What a reminder to keep our eyes on Christ and His strength in our battles. As Joni often says, onward and upward, Dear Friend!
Joni has often said that she has grown in her walk with Christ in proportion to the time she has spent in His Word. What a blessing it can be to read His word and seek Him alongside our brothers and sisters in Christ!
There are some fantastic Bible study resources available through Joni and Friends. Consider joining Joni and Ken in their yearly Bible reading plan. Joni has also written two exceptional Bible studies, Life in the Balance and When God Weeps. Life in the Balance offers biblical perspectives on the hot topics of today. When God Weeps tackles timeless questions about God’s role in our suffering. You may also enjoy going through one of Joni’s books as a study.
If you intend the Bible study to be for people with developmental disabilities, be sure to browse the resources available through Friendship Ministries.
f there is a sport you love, there is probably someone out there who has figured out how to do it from a wheelchair. Begin your search by checking in with local sporting organizations, asking whether they have any groups or teams with disabilities, or whether they are able to include people with disabilities on their established teams. Stay informed about which sports are played in the Paralympics – these sports are likely to have regional followings as well. If there isn’t, research the ways of playing the particular adapted sport and seek out others to join the fun!
Challenged Athletes is a fantastic resource for athletes. Their mission is to support and advance the athletic endeavors of people with disabilities. We also want to mention Sports N’ Spokes magazine for keeping updated on the latest happenings in wheelchair sports and recreation.
And then grab a bowl of popcorn and enjoy Determined to Win from Joni’s award-winning TV series. In this episode you will hear from Hall of Famer and Paralympic gold medalist Jean Driscoll.
What an exciting time in your life! Congratulations on making this decision to pursue a college degree! As you consider various colleges, get in touch with each school’s department of disability support services. Set up an appointment to get to know them and tour the campus. Do a walk-through of classrooms, dorms, and common areas. A school’s disability support services are a key component to your success on the college level.
For scholarships, take a look at Makoa and the book Financial Aid for the Disabled and Their Families, both of which list condition-specific, disability-related scholarships.
Another resource you may find helpful is BestColleges.com. And The College Board can help you obtain appropriate testing accommodations. But before you get started, take a half hour to be inspired and encouraged through the Joni and Friends television episode featuring Emily Shannahan’s journey through college.
Man’s best friend has been assisting people with disabilities as designated helpers since 1949! They not only assist the blind, but also wheelchair-users, the hearing impaired, and people with seizure disorders, just to name a few.
To learn more about the world of service animals, and the location of training schools near you, visit the Service Dog Central’s website. You may also find Paws with a Cause and Canine Companions for Independence helpful. You can apply for a service animal with these organizations. Each organization has its own multi-step application process, so be patient! When a service animal is selected for you, be prepared to take some time out for your own training with your new companion.
You might be surprised at the wealth of information online through various disability travel chat sites. Private tour groups, destination towns and cities, and others in the professional tourist industry also sponsor sites. You can search online to find a site that meets your particular needs.
Before traveling we recommend familiarizing yourself with TSA’s services for people with disabilities and medical conditions. Also, when booking your reservation, let the airline know you are a wheelchair user so they can plan ahead to accommodate you. Avoid taking smaller planes as they often don’t provide jetways connecting the airport terminal to the airplane. Book direct flights whenever possible to reduce transfers to and from your wheelchair.
Check out other traveling tips on the Joni and Friends blog. Once you’ve given traveling a try, consider joining us on a Wheels for the World trip. By sharing the gift of mobility, you can share the love of Christ with people all over the world!
Do you have a question or concern that has not been addressed? Please contact us for additional help and resources.