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LDS church offers online content for people with disabilities

By Genelle Pugmire - Daily Herald | Aug 30, 2022

Photo supplied, Intellectual Reserve

A man brings his service dog to church. Information on services animals in church is now available online.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Monday announced new online content designed to assist people with disabilities on their digital platforms.

A “Disabilities” page has been updated at ChurchofJesusChrist.org and the content has been posted on the Gospel Library app in the Life Help section, which includes materials for individuals, parents, caregivers and leaders of those who are deaf or hard of hearing or have disabilities, according to church information.

Resources within the app include information on the doctrine, videos and Home Evening lessons on disability awareness and inclusion, service mission opportunities and outside resources.

The scriptures and other Church materials are available in a variety of accessible formats including American Sign Language, audio description, web braille and more.

“Church members are encouraged to follow the Savior’s example of offering hope, understanding, and love to those who have disabilities” reads 38.8.31 from the General Handbook.

In this section of the General Handbook, individuals can learn about including members with disabilities — along with general guidelines on frequently asked questions about ordinances performed by and for members with disabilities — to pair with accessibility and safety guidelines.

Those topics now online include everything from how to handle food allergies to service animals and service mission options. Sub-topics include helping those with disabilities at Girls Camp, how to prepare the Sacrament for people with allergies and more.

The new online reference pages are filled with information and work in partnerships with other resource organizations. Showing the value of providing information about members with disabilities, the church shared the story of the Barlow family.

As a college student, and then as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Rebecca Barlow saw church as an essential place to strengthen her testimony and learn through the Spirit.

But as a young mother, she saw her church experience change when her second child, Wesley, was diagnosed with autism.

“The meaning of going to church mutated,” Barlow said. “It became nearly impossible to attend. Wesley was agitated, loud, aggressive and overstimulated (at church).”

Barlow and her husband started trading off Sundays so one of them could attend church meetings while the other stayed home with Wesley, or they would only stay for sacrament meeting. She said there were lots of “tears and frustration” as they tried to find a solution.

After the family moved to a new ward, “a compassionate bishop heard our pleas for help,” Barlow said. The bishop created a calling for a sister in the ward to act as a one-on-one aid for Wesley. That way, Barlow could finally return to Relief Society.

“Over time, church became more than a building; it finally became a safety net, a place of solace and learning, a place where we didn’t need to hide our troubles and struggles but could share them,” Barlow said.

Barlow now serves as a ward disability specialist in the Desert Valley Ward, Desert Ridge Stake, in Mesa, Arizona. When she began serving in this calling, Barlow felt empathy for the families in her ward who couldn’t attend meetings for various reasons, as well as the people who came to meetings but sat alone.

One of the things Barlow did was to create a sensory room where children feel safe and can still enjoy church attendance while receiving love and attention from members of their church family.

Disabilities content is also available in 10 additional languages: American Sign Language, Cebuano, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish and Tagalog.

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