8 Ways to Improve Accessibility and Inclusion for Senior Parishioners

The following is a guest post by Marie Villeza of ElderImpact.org.

A place of worship should be a place where everyone feels safe and included. Lack of accessibility is a problem for many churches, particularly for older members of the congregation and those with disabilities. There are several ways that churches may lack accessibility—it is not just the physical building. Below are eight tips to improve various types of accessibility and inclusion problems for senior parishioners.

Improving Access and Inclusion

1.) Churches need to include access for those who are deaf, deaf-blind, and hard of hearing. Most people in the deaf community who were born deaf or lost their hearing very early in life generally use American Sign Language (ASL) as their primary means of communication, with English as a second language. Some individuals who became deaf later in life use a kind of Signed English, while others speech read.

For someone who is hard of hearing, a variety of factors impact effective communication such as background noise, lighting, fatigue, residual hearing, and speechreading ability. Deaf and deafened individuals require visual communication, and an ASL interpreter should be provided. Those who are hard of hearing may use assistive listening devices or systems which are used to enhance residual hearing and also improve sound reception in a church.

For those who are deaf and hard of hearing, the church may offer print copies of the entire sermon and any other news topics announced. For individuals who are both deaf and blind, tactile interpretations are the best form of communication. These solutions for communication access are essential to help make every individual feel welcome at church.

2.) To improve accessibility and inclusion, your church may benefit from sponsoring a luncheon every month for older members of the church. Offer a meal and provide a speaker to discuss a topic of interest to your older members. Or you could make it a potluck and ask attendees to share various experiences that may inspire others. Having a special day every month with peers can make church members appear more approachable so that senior members feel welcomed and included.

3.) Churches that are already existing buildings do not have to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or local building codes, provided there are no major construction projects or modifications happening. Church members may generally want to make accessibility changes, but the cost of those changes is a problem.

People in the church and community can become community advocates and work to raise funds to help correct these problems. Occupational therapists can evaluate the accessibility of the church and recommend solutions. Additionally, they can educate church and community members about options and cultivate an interest in making the church more inclusive for all.

4.) Accessibility for those who are disabled is not just physical but also social and spiritual. Beyond the physical barriers, there are attitudinal and communication barriers to be concerned with. The church community should become more accepting and understanding of individuals’ different needs and walks of life. Every individual wants to feel valued for who they are and what they can offer to the people of the church and the community.

5.) Technology plays an important role in the accessibility and inclusion of older adults in the church. There are times that seniors can’t make it to church due to illness, pain, or other reasons. If they want to be a part of the church, it is crucial to have an option for them. One of those options is a free conference call service. The service may also be recorded and sent to members unable to attend the live service via email. Video calling is another similar option. These give senior members of the church the ability to worship, even if homebound.

6.) People with environmental sensitivities also face accessibility barriers, although this issue is often overlooked. These problems include allergies or sensitivities to mold and/or chemical substances. For those with these allergies or sensitivities, it may be impossible to be in certain parts of the church. Enlist an environmental safety specialist to inspect the building for areas of concern and offer recommendations to rectify problems for the health of all members.

7.) Churches can prove to be an important part of the nutrition and overall health of their senior members by providing meals, exercise classes, and wellness opportunities. Something congregations may also consider is enlisting a volunteer nurse (perhaps a member of the church) to take blood pressures regularly and offer basic health education for ailing and aging members.

8.) Individuals who are blind, are partially sighted, or have low vision require both communication and physical access assistance. Printed materials are often used for newsletters, Bibles, and bulletins, which are often sent by email. Technology that offers text-to-speech conversions is a useful aid for translating these materials and ensuring that these members receive the same benefits and knowledge. Certain church materials may also be offered in large print and Braille for those who require it.

The Importance of Inclusion

Too many people do not feel included in our society. People should always feel included in their place of worship. It is important for us to create inclusive environments within the church by accommodating people’s different needs.

About the Author

Marie Villeza has always had a close relationship with her father. As he became older, Marie wanted to return the favor and ensure that her father could continue to learn and stay current with everything in the world. That’s how ElderImpact.org started. Marie created this site in hopes of keeping seniors, like her father, in touch with modern living through helpful, informative resources. When Marie isn’t hard at work, she likes spending time with her family, reading, and gardening.

(Image via Pixabay by ChorSpiegel)

How to Help a Child with a Parent Who Is Struggling with Addiction

The following article is a guest post by Sarah Lockwood of the ThePreventionCoalition.org. Photo via Pixabay

It’s estimated that 25% of children are exposed to some type of addiction or substance abuse in the home. Children of people struggling with substance abuse are often overlooked when it comes to helping those with addiction. It’s good news if the parent is pursuing recovery, but we can’t forget to care for the children during this difficult time, too.

1. Don’t Burden Them With a Secret

Naturally, this situation calls for a certain level of privacy and it’s important your child knows not to loudly advertise it at school. However, make family and close friends aware of what’s going on.

This is vital in case of an emergency: if your child finds your spouse in need of medical attention, he shouldn’t have to worry about “letting the truth slip” and instead be able to focus on getting help. Further, if he’s feeling lost or confused about what’s going on, it’s good to have an outlet outside the home where he feels safe to talk about it.

Continue reading “How to Help a Child with a Parent Who Is Struggling with Addiction”

Heal and Strengthen Your Marriage

In The Family: A Proclamation to the World, an official Church document, it states that “the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.”

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe that life continues after death, that families can live together forever and furthermore, that the marriage relationship can and should be perpetuated beyond the grave and not “till death do us part.” To Mormons, a marriage is eternal. Family is eternal. Sadly, marriages seem to be failing all around us.

With that introduction, I wanted to share with my readers a video from one of the apostles of the Mormon Church, Elder Dallin H. Oaks, which talks about marriage. In it he states that “the weakening of the concept that marriages are permanent and precious has far-reaching consequences.” Indeed, it seems these days that too many couples are willing to part ways after petty differences, rather than stick it out and make things work.

Are you currently struggling in your marriage? Have you contemplated a divorce? Have you fallen out of love? You can work it out! A marriage is work, but it’s so worth it. In fact, it’s part of God’s plan for us.

While Mormon couples are not immune to divorce, a higher proportion of marriages work and last. That’s because of our belief in the importance of family and of marriage, our belief that marriage can continue after death. With that knowledge, it gives us the strength and the willpower to push through difficulties and make a marriage work. As Elder Oaks stated, “A marriage, eternal in duration and god-like in quality, does not contemplate divorce.”

May you and your spouse do everything in your power to make your marriage last. Let your pride down. Be forgiving. Love and serve each other with all your hearts. You and your family will be so much happier and blessed. Ultimately, the way to make your marriage last is to seek the Lord Jesus Christ. If you and your spouse are united in that purpose, the Savior can help you; he can heal you; he can help you make your marriage work. He has for me.

Happy Father’s Day: Remember Our Father in Heaven

Happy Father’s day to all you wonderful fathers out there! It seems like we just celebrated Mother’s Day, and here we are celebrating Father’s Day 2012.

Not only should we remember and celebrate our fathers and grandfathers on this day, it’s a time for us to remember our Father in Heaven, the God of us all.

When Jesus walked the earth he taught:

“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all they heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment.”—Matthew 22:37-38

And indeed we should. The way we love God is by keeping his commandments, by doing our best to live a good Christian life, by loving others. In the First Epistle General of John, it reads:

“Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.”—1 John 4:7-9

We also learn in the Book of Mormon that when we serve other people, we are serving God:

“And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.”—Mosiah 2:17

So in short, as we remember our earthly fathers, and our Heavenly Father, let us commit to being a little better, to loving a little more, to saying “thanks” a little more often to our God who gave us life.

Happy Father’s Day!

Happy Mother’s Day! Remembering Mary, the Mother of Jesus

Happy Mother’s Day to all you wonderful mothers out there. Moms are the glue of any family. I’m so grateful for my mother, for all she taught me and did for me. I’m grateful for my wife, the mother of my beautiful daughter. I hope you can take a moment today to thank a special woman in your life, be it your mom, your grandmother, mother-in-law, neighbor—any woman who deserves praise on this special day.

The most important mother in the history of the world was the mother of our Savior, Jesus Christ. That is Mary. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has released this Bible video about Mary. Enjoy!