Jewish tradition teaches us of our obligation to ensure equal access for all people and to help facilitate the full participation of individuals with disabilities in religious and public life. We are taught "Do not separate yourself from the community" (Pirke Avot 2:5); accordingly, we must prevent anyone from being separated against their will. This occurs frequently; for example, Medicaid will often pay for long-term services for people with disabilities only if they live and receive care at institutions such as hospitals and nursing homes. Guided by our belief in the importance and value of community life, Reform Jews have been working on programs that will end Medicaid’s "institutional bias."
Furthermore, in Leviticus 19:14 we are commanded, "You shall not insult the deaf, or place a stumbling block before the blind." Stumbling blocks come in many forms, from less-than-accessible buildings, Shabbat services, prayer books and web pages to health care that is harder to access or isn’t sufficient for people with disabilities. We are obligated to remove these stumbling blocks; this is why Reform Judaism cares so deeply for the rights of people with disabilities.
Other Jewish texts on disability issues include:
"For my house shall be a house of prayer for all people." (Isaiah 56:5)
"And God said, 'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…' And God created man in His image in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them." (Genesis 1:26-27)
Two translations/interpretations from Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5:
"One who sees…people with disfigured faces or limbs, recites the blessing, 'Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who makes people different.' One who sees a person who is blind or lame, or who is covered with sores and white pustules (or similar ailment), recites the blessing, 'Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who is a righteous judge.' But if they were born that way (with the disability), one says, '…who makes people different.'" (Mishneh Torah, Hilchot B’rachot 10:12, based on B’rachot 58b)
"But Moses said to the Lord, 'Please, O Lord, I have never been a man of words, either in times past or now that You have spoken to Your servant; I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.' And the Lord said to him, 'Who gives man speech? Who makes him dumb or deaf, seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?'"(Exodus 4:10-11)
"Every member of the people of Israel is obligated to study Torah—whether one is rich or poor, physically able or with physical disability." (Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Talmud Torah, Ch. 10)
Two translations/interpretations fromPirkei Avot, Ethics of our Fathers, 4:3:
“Do not look at the container, but what is in it.”(Pirke Avot 4:27)
"Speak up for those who cannot speak…speak up, judge righteously, champion the poor and the needy." (Proverbs 31:8 )
"Hinei ma tov u’ma na’im shevet achim gam yachad. Behold how good and pleasant it is when all people live together as one." (Psalm 133)
"Rachmana leib’i. – “God wants only the heart."