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The hidden disabilities in your congregation (and 5 apps that can help)

Do you give people something to read as soon as they walk through the door of your church?  Giving them a handshake, a notice sheet, prayer book and hymn book might seem like you’re giving them everything they need to join in the service…but what if they can’t read?

What do you expect?

Do you expect people to write notes, fill in forms or make notes on the sermon? What if they can’t write so well? What about the person who refuses to help with coffee because they know they always knock things over or would spill the jug of milk, or break a few cups whilst washing up?

Do you think everyone sat listening to your sermon can hear you, understand what you are saying, can keep up with the pace of your speech? What if they have sensory processing difficulties, deafness or learning disabilities?

Do you get annoyed if people seem to always avoid joining in things, avoid doing their duty on the rotas and avoid the chatty times when it’s noisy, chaotic and busy during coffee time at the end of the service?  Do those who make excuses when invited to social gatherings and never seem to go to anything, eventually end up being labelled as anti-social?

Are there people who prefer things to be the same…always and get upset if you change things?

What can you do?

People with conditions such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, epilepsy, sensory processing difficulties, autism, Asperger’s, ADHD, moderate learning difficulties, some internal physical conditions and all kinds of other conditions may have one thing in common – their disability is hidden. You can’t see it. It’s not obvious. But it is always there.

It is easy to assume people can do things. That they can read or understand or manage in socially busy situations.  It is hard for someone to admit they can’t do something. It’s easier for them to pretend, to avoid things, make excuses or just get by whilst dealing with the anxiety that this causes. That’s the thing about a hidden disability- it’s hidden. And we often judge people too quickly without knowing what really they might be dealing with.

So what can we do? It’s simple really. Get to know people. Seek out the quiet ones, the ones who seem to be avoiding social situations, the ones who don’t join in, or the ones who seem to hide he things they cannot do so well. Learn about them and the things they are interested in. Listen not only to what they say but to what they don’t say. Spend time with them and be patient. It can take a long time for someone with a hidden disability to open up and reveal the things they struggle with. But also we can look for their gifts. They might find the usual things we make rota’s for, excruciating to contemplate if wanting joining in, but there will be something they are good at and a way we can bring out their gifts for the good of the church.

Top 5 Apps (to help those with hidden disabilities)

1. Google Talkback

This app is tailor made for members of your congregation who are visually impaired. Not only does it help to interact with other devices, it gives spoken and audible feedback too.

2. Commandr

Creating messages (without physical typing) and having the ability to operate various devices with a simple voice command, are a few things this nifty app can do.

3. Helptalk

For those in your congregation who are not able to communicate verbally or through written word, this powerful app can help individuals create sentences and phrases at the touch of a button. This app is also availble in 12 different languages.

4. Jabtalk

Much like Helptalk, Jabtalk is an app that helps both children and adults to construct sentences by using pictures and audio, in addition to providing a text to speech function.

5. Tecla Access

This accessibility app works much like a keyboard, but with the added function of being used to operate a variety of other devices.

We can make church more accessible for all. If you prepare notices, preach or welcome, think about how you can make those things more accessible. There’s advice on my blog and through the Churches for All network


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