By Linda Baldwin, Branch of the Vine Software
Assistive technology is widely used in the K-12 school setting to improve learning and to help students compensate for disabilities. But in the church? Not very often. And yet, if assistive technology helps individuals learn, comprehend, communicate and interact in the school setting, isn’t it equally important to offer the same tools to individuals in the church setting, where learning has eternal value.
The Assistive Technology Industry Association offers the following definition of assistive technology:
“Assistive technology (often abbreviated as AT) is any item, piece of equipment, software or product system that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities.
Assistive technology helps individuals compensate for disabilities. Those who have difficulty reading will comprehend better when text is highlighted and read aloud. Others will benefit from pictures to supplement the message. Those who cannot speak may be able to use an augmentative communication device to communicate and interact with others. And, those in our midst who are severely to profoundly impaired may learn through the use of simple cause and effect software.
Two questions to consider are, therefore: Would assistive technology be useful in the church? And, if so, why is it so seldom used?
Assistive technology in the church setting can help make God’s Word clear and easier to understand. Hearing and seeing God’s Word may improve an individual’s comprehension. Visual support may further improve comprehension. Encouraging the use of communication devices allows all of God’s children to participate. Simple, single switch software aids an individual with severe to profound impairments to learn basic truths from the Bible. And, just like a Bible, these tools can be used at home, too.
Assistive technology became widely implemented in the schools through the impetus of Federal and State laws. The Technology-Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities Act (P.L. 100-407) was first passed in 1988. These government acts provided funding and encouragement to schools to implement assistive technology with their students who had disabilities. Churches, however, have not had the benefit of these governmental acts. Frequently, churches do not have a program in place to meet the needs of individuals with disabilities, much less to empower them with assistive technology tools.
If we follow Jesus’ mandate in Luke 14:12-14, we in the church must include individuals with disabilities in the church body.
“Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
To truly include individuals with disabilities in the church body means that we reach out to them, minister to them, and help them to understand God’s Word using whatever means necessary – including assistive technology. As we do our part to help make God’s Word clear to all, the Holy Spirit will help them know the Lord’s love and care for them.
Branch of the Vine Software, Ltd. is a company dedicated to using assistive technology to make God’s Word clear.