Accessible Church, Accessible Sunday School, Autism, Blind, Christian, Invisible Illness, Learning Disability, Physical Impairment, Uncategorized, Visual impairment

Icons for Christians with Visual Impairments

The Orthodox Church has a rich language of images that teach us about the Incarnate God with us in Christ. But what do you do if you want to teach the language of holy images to people who are blind or have visual impairments?

This is an icon of the Theotokos with Jesus that Catholics call Our Lady of Perpetual Help. I recently ordered this icon from the Woodenicons Etsy shop.

One option for people who cannot see at all or who have severe limits in vision is to order carved icons. Several iconographers have translated holy icons into carvings such that the patterns can be felt with the fingers. There might be local options where you are, but I have had success ordering from Etsy. Three (not-affiliated) Etsy stores that sell carved icons and have good reviews at the time of publication are the Woodenicons shop, the Nauticalchandelier shop, and the TarasovAndFamily shop. 

These icon drawings of Christ and His Mother at the Deposition, the Hospitality of Abraham (Holy Trinity), and the Platytera (Mary Mother of God, Wider than the Heavens) are printed on yellow or bright green cardstock from the “Raster” files from the Orthodox Illustration Project.

Another option for people with limited vision is to print icon outlines in black ink on high contrast paper, such as neon green, neon pink, or bright yellow. The Orthodox Illustration Project by the Orthodox Arts Journal is a wonderful resource for high quality icon drawings that are free to use for non-commercial purposes. These high contrast images also work well for people who are colorblind. 

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If you don’t have money to purchase a carved icon, you can also print out one of the icon line drawings and trace over the lines with glue or puff paint. When it dries, you have a touchable icon outline that people can access without being able to see. This works better for simpler icons such as close-ups of faces. If you try this method, allot two days for drying time in case the paint or glue shrinks and you have to do touch ups after the first day.



Does your church have a teaching ministry that brings the language of icons to people with visual impairments? Tell us about it in the comments.

Accessible Church, Invisible Illness, Spoonies, Theological Reflection, Uncategorized

To Give All You Have: Virtue for Spoonies

they give all they have_ virtue for spoonies

When you think of virtue and disability, you probably think of videos of able-bodied people acting kindly towards people with disabilities. We don’t usually tell the stories of persons with disabilities practicing virtues. But they do.

There’s a community of people living with disabilities called Spoonies, so called because they relate to the idea that people with disabilities have fewer negotiable resources in a given day. [Read the Spoon Theory here.] I’d like you to think about Spoonies as Jesus might see them.

There’s a story in the Gospels of Jesus watching the people give offerings at the Temple. Some rich people were coming forward with ostentatious riches to offer. But Jesus noticed a widow woman who put only two mites into the offering. What did he say about her? Her offering was greater than all of the others, because she out of her poverty gave all she had. It’s the same with Spoonie Christians.

This is not to say that able-bodied Christians lack gifts to give. Of course they have plenty to give! But we need to make sure not to ignore the offering of everything that many Spoonies make in order to simply show up at church.

Don’t get me wrong. People with disabilities are often profoundly talented, and all are gifted with graces from God. But when you look at the offerings they make in terms of Spoons, they give all they have.

This is good for abled Christians to consider. When your church members with autistic children show up to church, they are giving all they have. When your church member with debilitating arthritis shows up to church, she’s giving all she has. That man with a vision impairment is giving all he has. That child with gene deletions who cries through the service is giving all he has. These are offerings acceptable to the Lord.

Don’t turn them away.