Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Seeing our blind United Methodists in October--and beyond

By Rev. Leo Yates, Jr.

Observances in October are plentiful: Down Syndrome Awareness Month, Lupus Awareness Month, Global Diversity Awareness Month, and Hallowe’en are just a few. But often overlooked is that October is Blind Awareness Month. Formerly known as Meet the Blind Month, which grew from White Cane Awareness Day on October 15th, the National Federation of the Blind recommends this month-long recognition be one that remembers history, advances equality, and celebrates accomplishments and supports persons who are blind or have vision loss.

As United Methodists, we are called to value all people as being of sacred worth. The Bible has many passages relating to or specifically about persons who are blind, particularly in the gospels. At least one of the Apostles had a visual impairment. While there are instances of healing in a few gospel passages, reading through the lens of disability theology points to needs for reconciliation, inclusion, and equality. In fact, Matthew explicitly states Jesus had compassion toward blind persons (Matt 20:30)--likely because of the isolation and loneliness they faced due to bad theology and neglect. A starting place for biblical application is for Christians to share Jesus’ compassion too, which can begin with learning about persons who are blind or have vision loss (the theme of the month).

It only takes a glance around the sanctuary or virtual space to see the many people with some sort of visual impairment (they’re wearing glasses). If you look closer, persons may be using a magnifying glass, a tablet or iPad camera to zoom in on a handout, or are struggling to see what’s happening around the sanctuary. Recalling John Wesley's concern for medical self-care, a part of this monthly observance can be to raise public awareness about vision and eye health. Common symptoms can be found here. Common eye disorders are found here. Become familiar with the eye disorders, if not for yourself, then for your loved ones. Often considered an invisible disability, eye disorders are not always recognizable unless you have a white cane or Seeing Eye dog.  

Ways to observe Blind Awarenss Month in the church setting can include one or more of the following:

Practice accessibility! Rev. Nancy Webb, a blind, retired elder from the Baltimore-Washington Conference recognizes livestreamed services have become a norm due to COVID. “This is the first time I have really felt excluded from the church because I’m missing all the information on the slides and on the screen and no one shares what’s on them,” said Webb. Mary Harris, a Deaf ministry coordinator in the Florida Annual Conference shares that a Deafblind parishioner rarely comes to church because there are not many persons who can communicate with him. “We encourage him to come, but he’d rather stay home.” These are breakdowns in how we do church. Persons who are blind or have vision loss should not be an afterthought, but a forethought. It takes remembering this, but more importantly, being in relationship with them. 

There will come a time where we won’t need monthly observances because churches and communities are fully sensitized, have cultural humility, and other oriented. However, we are not there yet. Until then, it’s good to have these reminders so we too can see like Jesus and see others, particularly our siblings who are blind or have vision loss. 

* Rev. Leo Yates is a deacon in full connection serving as the Accessibility and Inclusion Coordinator in the Baltimore-Washington Conference. For comments, questions, or consultation, contact him at

Friday, September 24, 2021

News and notes from AMD, DHM/UMCD, DMC - 24 September 2021

Here are the highlights of postings this week from the Association of Ministers with Disabilities, Disability Ministries Committee, Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Ministries Committee, and UM Congress of the Deaf. Please note that many posts have additional comments and discussion which will not be reflected in these links.

Click here for a list of recurring events of interest to people in disability ministry.

bird sitting
          on a fence rail, text whomever does not receive the kingdom of
          God as a little child will not enter it
This newsletter is generally issued weekly by the United Methodist Church's disability organizations.
This newsletter is published on the UM Disability Blog.
Visit a directory of our members.