More people with a learning disability in temples
The Hindu religion does offer a reason why people have the lives they have. "Hindus believe in karma," says Karen Patel*, the vice-president of a London-based Hindu organisation. "This means deeds in a past life determine our present life. What goes around comes around."
She would like to see more people with a learning disability in temples. "They'd meet people and enjoy a sense of peacefulness."
But she thinks some habits and customs are causing people with a learning disability to miss out. "English people take them [people with profound and multiple learning disabilities] out, but we don't. There's one girl who's 16 in the community that I've only ever seen here in the temple twice. Enough is not done."
The reasons why some South Asian families may sometimes be less inclined to take their children who have a learning disability into the community include fear of stigma, low expectations and protectiveness.
Dr Raghu Raghavan, who worked as a consultant on the Aawaaz project in Bradford, says, "Some [South Asian] families may not want others to be aware of their disabled son or daughter because of stigma. Having a child with learning disabilities may also have consequences [for] future marriage prospects."
The protectiveness of parents can be a particularly strong barrier to socialisation in the case of girls and women with a learning disability as their reputations are seen as being more easily damaged.
"But no communities are unsupportive of people with a learning disability," he adds.
Christianity faces similar problems with accessibility as other religions. In a bid to make church services more accessible, an organisation called Causeway Prospects has set up over 160 church-based groups that make Christian worship and teaching more accessible.
"People with a learning disability can make huge contributions to churches," says Causeway Prospects' director of corporate affairs, David Bendor-Samuel.
"They don't come to us to have their disability ‘taken away'. We come together to grow and together experience a fuller life. We learn from each other and explore what is means to be human, people created by God," he adds.
Whatever their background, it is clear many people with a learning disability enjoy being part of a faith community.
John Swindon, professor in Practical Theology and Pastoral Care at the University of Aberdeen, says he has been struck by the level of interest in religion and spirituality among people with a learning disability.
"The sense of community, friendship and being valued is very important to them," he says. "I think it's worthwhile exploring the spiritual aspects of life and these options should be available to people with a learning disability."
*Not her real name
For more informatiom
For more information on Causeway Prospects go to: www.prospects.org.uk
Faith in practice - including people with a learning disability in faith communities, a DVD by the Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities, costs £12.50. Go to www.learningdisabilities.org.uk