Christopher NEWELL and Andy CALDER, Editors, Voices in Disability and Spirituality from the Land Down Under: Outback to Outfront. New York: The Haworth Pastoral Press, 2004. pp. 170. $19.95 pb. ISBN 0-7890-2608-2.
Reviewed by John C. MEYER, Bradley University, Peoria, IL 61625

Eleven essays comprise this small but rich volume about people with physical and mental disabilities in Australia. The overall theme of the book is the recognition that people with disabilities are truly human beings rather than sub-human or inferior. Therefore, the chapters deal with efforts being made in Australia to include people with disabilities in all aspects of life, especially within the realm of religious organizations. While emphasizing inclusion the authors attempt to do away with prejudices and false clichés concerning people with disabilities. At the same time, there is study on the understanding of authentic, inclusive communities, religious or otherwise. The relatedness of human beings with and without disabilities is further broadened and expressed in the words of one author that: "Nothing exists separately from anything else" (p. 47). Recognizing this fact can go a long ways toward the acceptance and learning from people with disabilities in the human community. Practical examples are given noting the interaction and mutual learning that goes on in inclusive communities. Some maintain that people without disabilities receive much more from people with disabilities than they give to them through their inclusive interaction in the community.

Although the book does not deny the restrictions that are characteristic of people with disabilities it does argue against imposing further physical and social limitations upon the disabled. Not only do excluded people with disabilities suffer from their exclusion in society but also society itself suffers by not including them. Specific examples are given in this regard by the various authors of the essays who are experts in a variety of fields. For example, a summary history of Australia's attitude toward the blind is given from the time of its origin as a British penal colony in 1788 down to the present. Whereas the struggle for the inclusion of people with disabilities has not been easy for the people of Australia it nevertheless has progressed very well in more recent times. There is much that still needs to be accomplished but the journey toward complete acceptance and inclusion of people with disabilities is well on its way in the "land down under."

Some of the terminology and nomenclature found in the field of disability in Australia are slightly different than that employed in the United States but this is not an impediment to the reading and understanding of the book itself. There are individual essays that are worth the price of the book alone. For example, there is an excellent article about the inclusion of people with disabilities in the Jewish religious community. The editors have done a magnificent job in bringing together the relevant essays into one volume. It comprises recommended reading especially for educators, religious workers, health professionals, and all people of good will.

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