Church’s Disabilities Website Released in Nine Additional Languages
By Melissa Merrill, Church News and Events
When lds.org/disability first launched in 2007 in English, it brought together information that had previously been scattered across handbooks, manuals, and other websites, making helps and ideas more accessible in a central location.
Now, during 2012, those resources (which include information about 10 different categories of disabilities and a variety of other helps) are being made available in nine additional languages: Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.
This most recent launch will help families like the Varins of Paris, France. Raymond and Isabelle Varin had one son, Jérôme, when their second son, Jérémy, was born with Down syndrome. Although Jérémy’s diagnosis was a shock to his parents—they knew very little about Down syndrome at the time—their son has grown up to be very independent.
Today 20-year-old Jérémy cares for himself, bathing and shaving on his own. He works in a center for people with disabilities where he sets the table, sweeps, empties the dishwasher, and performs other tasks essential to running the household. He also practices judo, in which he has a blue belt, and enjoys listening to music, playing video games, and gardening. He is diligent in preparing for the sacrament and praying.
“We are touched by Jérémy’s courtesy, his kindness, and the simplicity of his life,” said his father, Raymond. “Jérémy helps me understand that I should not complain.”
Still, Brother Varin noted that things have not always been as happy and stable as they are now. He said that while misunderstanding or ignorant comments from others have been rare, when they have happened, they have hurt deeply.
Fortunately, Brother Varin said, most of his family’s experiences related to Jérémy’s disability have been positive. He said that many people have great affection for Jérémy, noting that members of the Church have been particularly kind in surrounding him and showing him love and appreciation.
He believes it’s those kinds of attitudes that the website will help foster. “It can help Church leaders and teachers understand disabilities and how to adapt and manage situations,” he said.
But the site is equally important for people with disabilities and their families, he said—not so much as a way to inform but as a source of encouragement.
“This site is important for families who have a member with a disability because of the support it offers,” he said. “It gives you the perspective of the experience and testimony of others, which can allow for a more positive view of the future. For all these reasons it is important that this information be available in different languages.”
Elder Keith R. Edwards of the Seventy, who advises Disability Services for the Church, agrees.
“Members with disabilities, their families, and caregivers will recognize that we are all working together for one purpose—‘to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man’—and that purpose requires that we be of ‘one heart and one mind,’” Elder Edwards said (see Moses 1:39, 7:18). “They will know and understand where they can go for help and will recognize that when the Lord’s Church is working the way it should, no one has to fight their battle alone.”
Fatima Alves of Portugal, who has spina bifida, found that the website has helped her realize exactly that: she is not alone.
“It is important to me that the Church has a website to help people with disabilities so that we feel united as Church members. It’s helpful to know that the Church has concern and a desire to help and support people in special situations,” she said.
She also finds it meaningful that the site is designed to help those she interacts with, specifically her leaders and teachers.
“I find it equally important that the site is dedicated to help leaders, teachers, and general members better understand and support people with disabilities,” she said. “I hope that as a result, they will learn about the difficulties and needs each person faces and be able to teach and assist them accordingly. I am certain that when we make an effort to understand each other personally, we can support the needs of all members and put into practice the true love of Jesus Christ—that is, that charity never fails.”
In all of the languages in which the site has been published, several features are included:
- Disability List: This portion of the site offers disability-specific information in 10 categories and offers teachings tips and ideas for how to help someone with this disability.
- Families: This part of the website, which includes tailored information for parents, siblings, and grandparents of children with disabilities, offers suggestions for strengthening families and seeking guidance and help.
- Questions and Answers: Here, readers can find answers to commonly asked questions in four categories: how to, doctrines and policies, resources, and statistics.
- General Information: This section provides an overview of the site and points out that while sometimes people react unintentionally to disabilities with “fear, rejection, or discomfort,” learning about a person and his or situation can increase understanding and acceptance.
- Leaders and Teachers: This section of the site reminds leaders and teachers of things to keep in mind when working with members with disabilities and encourages them to increase awareness and understanding of disabilities in their units.
- Scriptures and Quotes: This collection of scriptures and prophetic statements is meant as a source of encouragement, comfort, and hope for people in a variety of situations that may be discouraging or difficult.
The English version of the site also includes a list of accessible materials the Church has made available. (Efforts to make material accessible in other languages are under way.)
The release of the site is one of several efforts the Church makes to reach all members of the Church, said Elder Edwards.
“Part of our ‘charge’ from the Lord is to provide the gospel to everyone in a manner that they can understand and take full advantage of it,” Elder Edwards said. “Those efforts have taken a number of directions including temple-building; scripture accessibility, including translation; focusing on families; strengthening youth and single adult programs; and providing greater awareness, easier access, and more assistance to those who have disabilities. We are anxious not to overlook any segment of the Lord’s children in providing meaningful gospel opportunities.
“Part of our approach in reaching out to those with disabilities is to provide insight to Church leaders who may not know how to best serve those in the branch, ward, or stake with varying disabilities,” he continued. “The website not only will assist the individual but also is designed to help leaders know how to help or where they can go for assistance in helping serve with members who have disabilities.”
Of course, the website is not intended to replace individual, personal interaction among Church members.
“Over the years we have had varying degrees of success in dealing with special needs in the Church,” said Elder Edwards. “The success has come in large measure when individuals have determined within themselves to make a difference. The key to helping anyone—whether they have a disability or not—is to love them and seek direction from the Spirit in reaching out and helping.
“The website is not designed to replace the individual motivation but to provide insights, understanding, and assistance for all of us; we have all been charged to love our neighbor as our self (see Matthew 19:19). The Church is simply providing another avenue of assistance in helping us understand and be successful in our desire to assist in the work of the Lord.”
You need not be a special educator or have professional training to work with members who have disabilities. If you have an experience relating to disabilities and serving in the Church, please share it with Church Disabilities Services at email@example.com.