Judith A. Snow, MA (York University, Toronto, 1976) was a social inventor and a builder of inclusive communities that welcome the participation of a wide diversity of people. She was also a visual artist and the Founding Director of Laser Eagles Art Guild. Snow is known for championing inclusive education, support circles, individualized personal assistance, person-directed planning and facilitated art. She passed away in her home on Sunday May 31st at 10:45 pm.
I had the privilege of hearing Judith Snow at the Summer Institute of Theology and Disability 2013. Our only encounter had a profound impact on me. She impressed upon me that the categories of able-bodied and disabled are rather arbitrary because all of us have different gifts. Further, the word “disabled” can be problematic because it implies that something is no longer useful for its intended function. Thus, according to Judith this label is not appropriate for any person. Judith also demonstrated that needing personal care support, etc. is not necessarily a weakness but rather a witness. She raised the idea that people have the ability to partner with God in service to others, similar to how she partnered with her personal assistants because she could not move her arms or legs.
After she spoke about the erroneous label of “disabled,” “Circles of Support,” identifying unusual gifts and valuing diversity, I approached her (to watch Judith’s 2013 presentation “Agent or Object: A Call to be God’s Partner,” click here).I was admittedly a little envious of her professional looking support team, not to mention all of her accomplishments and the impact she was having on advocacy in the community. When I approached her, she asked me what my dream was; I said, “I want to be a motivational speaker!” She replied, “So why aren’t you?” I proceeded to list off various obstacles including, lack of credentials, lack of an accessible vehicle and lack of an agent. To my surprise she did not offer me solutions. She said,
Great, you know what the problems are; now all you have to do is get a group of people together and find a way to solve them.
That was two years ago, interestingly enough, while some of the challenges I rhymed off to Judith remain, my opportunities to speak publicly and encourage others have increased dramatically and continue to grow. Since meeting Judith, regardless of my visual impairment and reliance on a power wheelchair I try not to view myself or anyone else as “disabled” because I recognize that we all have the capacity to function as God intended. That is, all people possess the capacity to bring glory to God and draw others to him in various, unique ways.
Thank you, Judith Snow, for your faith, wisdom and insight. You will be missed!
Below is Judith’s 2014 presentation at the Summer Institute on Theology and Disability, “It’s about Grace!” For those in the Toronto area, Judith’s funeral will be held tomorrow, Saturday, June 6 from 1:30 pm to about 3:30 pm at Metropolitan United Church, 56 Queen Street East.