A national gathering of people concerned about disabilities will convene in Salt Lake City May 5-7 to commemorate the fifth annual Barrier Awareness Day, which is May 7.
The National Barrier Awareness Foundation is an organization dedicated to raising public awareness about the attitudinal, architectural and communication barriers that are encountered by people with disabilities. All disabilities - physical or mental, temporary or permanent - are of concern to the organization.A major event of the convention will be an interfaith observance May 6, 8 p.m., in the Tabernacle on Temple Square. The public is invited; admission is free.
Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Council of the Twelve will address the gathering. Also on the program will be William Christopher, an actor best-known for his portrayal as Father Mulcahy on the long-running television series MAS*H. Christopher recently has written a book about experiences with his son, who is autistic.
Also to participate on the program in the Tabernacle is Dr. Harold Wilke, founder of The Healing Community in White Plains, N.Y. Dr. Wilke, who was born without arms, is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ.
Emma Lou Thayne, an LDS Church member, community leader and writer who often speaks on issues of human worth and dignity, will also address the assembly.
Music will be provided Saturday evening by an interdenominational choir conducted by Ardean Watts.
Barrier Awareness also will be the topic of the Tabernacle Choir's Sunday, May 7, broadcast of "Music and the Spoken Word."
Carmen Pingree, regional vice president of the Barrier Awareness Foundation and a member of the Church's committee for members with disabilities, said many people never realize the kinds of barriers faced daily by those who have disabilities.
"It is pretty well known that stairways block people in wheelchairs, but there are a host of other barriers to contend with," she said. "What problems do deaf people face in communicating? How often do the attitudes of able-bodied people erect barriers? The list goes on and on, but we hope barrier awareness activities can bring some of the problems to light."
First Presidency supports barrier-free environment
The First Presidency has issued the following statement:
"In keeping with the spirit of National Barrier Awareness Day, which will be observed on May 7, 1989, we call attention to the significant role of religious leaders and individual citizens in contributing to a more barrier-free environment for those who have disabilities.
"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is working to provide easier access to its buildings and facilities for people with disabilities. We also are seeking more creative ways of providing religious training for those with physical, mental and emotional impairments. But there is an even greater need to reduce the barriers imposed by a lack of understanding and acceptance of those who have disabilities.
"We urge leaders, teachers, neighbors, friends and families to:
- Help increase awareness and understanding of disabilities.
- Accept those with disabilities as children of God and help them to feel respected, loved and understood.
- Provide opportunities for members with disabilities to learn about the Savior and pattern their lives after Him.
- Assist in the successful Church participation of people with disabilities and the appreciation of their unique gifts.
- Provide meaningful opportunities for members with disabilities to serve, teach and lead others.
"It is our opportunity and our responsibility to follow the example of Jesus in loving our neighbors, and that includes those with disabilities."