Monday, February 3, 2020

Disability Awareness at Emmanuel UMC

In 2020, the Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference observed Disability Awareness Sunday on February 2. Emmanuel UMC in Laurel MD was one participant.


two women, one light-skinned and one dark-skinned, stand side by side, singing
The church had a special service with Rev. Leo Yates Jr., a deacon, preaching. Using Luke 14.15-23, he touched on epilepsy, wheelchair users, hearing loss, autism, dementia, and ableism. Leo states that he found Sesame Street's lessons on social awareness and disability inclusion helpful, as it flowed well with the congregation's recent sermon series, "Good News from Sesame Street."


Leo Yates preaches, behind him is the Cookie Monster

Preparations for the service began with a news item from the conference that announced the observation date. According to the Discipline, conferences designate a day for the observance. Most allow for local choice. The dates vary; some coincide with a state disability week, often early in the year, while others use a date closer to the fall return to school after summer break.
photo of an announcement, plain text, that February 2 is the conference date for Disability Awareness Sunday, and listing ways to participate.

With a local date set, the church placed a notice in their newsletter and bulletins about the upcoming event.
A poster with several symbols for various disabilities, below it is a text with notes about disability awareness Sunday and an information table


At the church, during the fellowship time, there was an information table with handouts featuring the UMC's disability groups.
Leo Yates stands behind a table with brochures about disability awareness

Some of the pieces on the table were bulletin inserts from the Baltimore-Washington Conference Commission on Disability Concerns, a brochure that highlights the different groups supported by the UMC, their work and resources available. The table also promoted the congregation's own signing group that meets monthly.  
poster with hands spelling "ASL" and time of meeting
The church also visits an assisted living facility, where classes are conducted to teach sign language to the residents. The congregation also participates in other disability-related observances, such as Deaf Awareness Sunday and several other events.

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