by Rev. Peter Heide 

At the 2024 ELCA Youth Ministry Network Extravaganza, several firsts occurred surrounding Disability Ministries. It had a more central place than in the past because, rather than offering the one 75-minute workshop we anticipated, in the end, our Disability Ministries (DM) advisory team, represented by coordinator Rev. Lisa Heffernan, Anita Smallin, Rev. Brian Krause, and Rev. Peter Heide, provided three 75-minute workshops, offered a revised Thanksgiving for Baptism service, and participated in a panel discussion with Rev. Jonathan Vehar, DEM for the South Dakota synod and director of the tAble, on the main stage. The DM advisory team also staffed a table in the exhibit area providing business cards with our contact information in Braille and Large Print. Large Print Guidelines | American Printing House ( Here we were able to make personal contacts.

Anita and Peter standing at a baptismal bowl for the Thanksgiving for Baptism

The revised Thanksgiving for Baptism service may have been the first time that Braille was used at a national event of the ELCA or its affiliates. It was definitely the first time that an eReader, a refreshable Braille display, was used for the reading. NLS Braille eReader Support – Cleveland Public Library (  The Extravaganza may also have been the first time all worship services and other program details presented on screen were made fully accessible by providing document for reading through the eReader. (Many thanks to the organizers and Pastor Sarah Sumner-Eisenbraun, for making this possible.)braille ereader

The importance of this work may make the difference for many Braille users who wish to be leaders in the church. Braille can now be made available by simply providing a thumb drive, SD card, or direct download with the program files in word, plain text, or rtf formats. This means that the high cost of Braille production no longer needs to be a barrier for many Blind people. The issue of Large Print continues to be a challenge, but we move one step at a time.

The presentations of the Disability Ministries advisory team seemed to be well received. One person stated that our workshop was one of the most practical workshops she attended. Another person responding to the presentation of the revised Thanksgiving for Baptism Service said, “My baptism has always been important to me, this service put faces on those who have gone before and really make a difference for me. It has made my baptism more important than ever.”

We thank the Youth Extravaganza planning team for their support of our continued ministry in and throughout the ELCA.