Good tools are the prized possession of any skilled craftsman. And an assortment of effective teaching tools for people with disabilities is available through the Church, according to Douglas L. Hind, manager of the special curriculum division of the Church Curriculum Department.
Hind said that many curriculum materials have been adapted to meet special needs, but a lot of Church members are unaware that these special tools - tools that build faith and testimony in the blind, deaf and others - are easily accessible.Most of the special materials available are for those with sight or hearing impairments, according to Hind. The basic Sunday School and Primary courses, accompanied by pictures, can help those with learning disabilities and the mentally retarded.
Use of the basic teaching guides and instructional materials can benefit many, Hind pointed out, because 42 percent of people with disabilities suffer from learning impediments.
For the visually impaired, there are scriptures and many other Church books on audiocassettes and in Braille, recorded speeches, large-print editions of the scriptures, recorded handbooks and lesson manuals and the new hymnal in Braille and on audiocassette.
Each issue of the Ensign is put on audiocassettes and sent to more than 3,000 in the Church, added Hind. And monthly Relief Society visiting teaching messages in Braille can be obtained at no charge.
For the hearing impaired, there is all of the written literature available to anyone else, plus many videocassettes of previously made Church films with signed inserts added, numerous closed-captioned videos, a dictionary of sign language terms and phrases peculiar to the Church, a handbook for LDS interpreters and closed-captioned Church satellite broadcasts. Each session of general conference is produced with closed captions. Sessions also are signed live in the Church Office Building auditorium for those attending conference.
Hind is supervising the translation of the Book of Mormon into sign language. He has traveled throughout the United States to seek hearing-impaired individuals and sign language interpreters who have excellent sign language skills and a deep understanding of the Book of Mormon to assist with the project.
He noted that limited items for the blind and deaf are available in Spanish.
For those seeking insights into disabilities and inspiration to overcome challenges, an index of articles in Church magazines and the Church News dealing with disabilities is available from special curriculum. Many of the articles are personal accounts of people overcoming seemingly insurmountable barriers.
Hind, whose deaf parents just returned from a mission in Texas, said there is a place for nearly all people with disabilities to serve in the Church.
"If members with disabilities feel they are needed and wanted, they will participate," Hind explained. "If you get an interested teacher or bishop who sees someone wants to learn the gospel, they can help them do it. It takes an open mind, and sometimes some creativity, but the opportunities are there.
"When working or associating with the disabled, members need to just use courtesy and common sense. To me, these are choice people. I don't envy them, but I admire, respect and honor them."
Information about special materials can be obtained by contacting Special Curriculum, 50 E. North Temple, Floor 24, Salt Lake City, Utah 84150; or by telephoning toll-free 1-800-662-3756 from within Utah, or 1-800-453-3860 outside the state.