Skip to content
ELCA Blogs

Disability Ministries

Disability Ministries Grants 2024

Dear friends of ELCA Disability Ministries,

Thank you for considering Disability Ministries to potentially help fund your request or initiative via grant. Grant applicants are required to follow the guidelines below to be eligible to receive grant funding through Disability Ministries.

All applicants seeking funds from Disability Ministries must demonstrate how the request or initiative addresses at least one of the following goals:

– Raising up people with disabilities for leadership positions, encouraging the participation of those with disabilities in the wider church, and preparing leaders for serving people with disabilities.

– Equipping our synods, congregations, and members with relevant and practical information that enables them to welcome and support individuals with disabilities so that they might participate fully in the life of the congregation, and that, together, all might experience being the body of Christ.

– Gathering and connecting those with disabilities and various groups within the church so that they might help us become an inclusive, supportive, and whole community of faith.

Additionally, all applicants must show that there is a current relationship, or that they are actively building a relationship, with people living with disabilities in their settings.

We want to recognize that we are moving beyond having an attitude of “If we build it, they will come” in the church. So, for example, not requesting funding for a ramp simply for the sake of having a ramp. But rather explaining how the ramp (or whatever your project may be) would be of a benefit to the disabled people in your setting and your ministry.

We will be funding a total of $50,000. Grant applicants can apply for a grant in the range of $5,000-$10,000. Previous applicants who were not funded may reapply.

The application will open on May 28th, and close on July 31st, or earlier if we have received 30 completed applications. Projects receiving grants will be announced before the end of October 2024.

To register with GrantMaker, please go to, and follow the links and instructions that follow. If you have a profile with GrantMaker already, log in here: to begin your application process.

For questions, please email or

God’s peace and blessings as you begin the application process!

—ELCA Disability Ministries

A Reflection on the 2024 ELCA Youth Ministry Network Extravaganza

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.

CRLC Listening Session

The Commission for a Renewed Lutheran Church (CRLC) was formed by action of the 2022 ELCA Churchwide Assembly. The assembly action directed the Church Council to develop a CRLC comprised of diverse leaders to “reconsider the statements of purpose for each of the expressions of this church, the principles of its organizational structure, and all matters pertaining thereunto, being particularly attentive to our shared commitment to dismantle racism, and will present its findings and recommendations to the 2025 Churchwide Assembly in preparation for a possible reconstituting convention to be called under the rules for a special meeting of the Churchwide Assembly.” More information about the CRLC can be found here:

As a foundation for its work, the CRLC is hosting various listening sessions collecting data from a wide range of constituents in order to inform next steps. During this listening session, members of the ELCA disability community, and parents of children/youth with disabilities, are invited to participate in a group discussion, facilitated by member(s) of the CRLC, addressing questions prepared by the CRLC and asked at all listening sessions. Your input will help inform the work of the commission.

The listening session will be held via Zoom on Friday, March 15, 2024 from 2:30 p.m. – 3:45 p.m. To register to participate, please go to the following Google Form: The Zoom link will be emailed to people who register. We look forward to your participation!

Top 10 List of Accommodations

A lot of the questions we get from individuals and congregations are about cost-friendly resources, or being asked where a ministry can start with improving their accessibility beyond physical structure. So when members of the Disability Ministries advisory team met last month, we put together a “Top 10 list” of sorts that offers ideas, resources, and our thoughts on accommodations that can give a place to start.

This is not an all-encompassing list by any means, but we hope it can give you some ideas, many of which are low cost, on where you can begin the holy work of becoming more accessible in your Christian education programs.


Our Top 10 List of Accommodations A Congregation Can Make:

  1. Website Design: The way a website is laid out or the fonts chosen for a site can make it difficult, or impossible, for a blind person or a person with low vision to navigate. Here are some articles and resources on website design:


  1. Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) services Captioning Resources | NCRA: CART displays captioning in real time and can be used with screen readers and Braille displays and can be displayed with scalable font. CART can be a great resource in worship for Deaf, Blind, and Deaf/Blind communities.


  1. Adaptive art supplies for Christian Education: Our friends with disabilities can feel singled out because we sometimes need different or specialized writing and creative tools or items for adapted games that may be locally unavailable. Fortunately, you can find many easy things to have on hand!

These are just a few starter examples, but please note that some things that are helpful to disabled people are the same type of items used in preschools. If at all possible, do not purchase only the items intended for preschoolers. People of all ages benefit from these materials, and age-appropriate ones may be available.


UNO Braille 

Low Vision Playing Cards





Loop Scissors

Crayola Tripod Grip Markers


  1. Use a variety of Bibles: Large print options and the use of multiple translations of scripture can make worship and Bible study more accessible to different people.


  1. 5 Steps to Make Your Congregation More Autism Friendly (


  1. Resources for Blind or Visually-Impaired People: Hadley is a free education resource to help newly Blind and Blind people at all stages of life, offering courses from academic to basic life skills.


  1. Gluten-free Options for Holy Communion


  1. Update language/images used in worship, prayer, Bible study, etc.: The most common questions we get are related to language and how we speak about disability in worship and prayer or showing hospitality to people with disabilities. These articles can help guide you as you consider what is means to do away with ableist language in the life of a ministry or congregation:


  1. What large print REALLY is!


  1. Broadening your leadership: Learn to appreciate the giftedness of ALL your people—disabled and nondisabled— and use their gifts!

We hope this list of resources can be helpful to many of you! There are so many things out there a congregation or ministry site can do for accessibility and inclusion of the disability community. We pray that you will review this list and find other amazing resources as well.

Book Review: “The Difference that Disability Makes”

Book review by the Rev. Peter Heide

Michalko begins the difference that disability makes (Temple University Press, Mar 2002) in narrative conversation with a number of observations, ex. noting that throughout history people have put greater value on minerals and substances that are limited. Gold’s value comes from its scarcity; the same is true of diamonds and natural pearls. At one time salt was so valuable that it was used as a means of exchange. Michalko reminds us that salary comes from the practice of Rome paying its soldiers with salt.

Yet, when society regards the relative scarcity of people living with disabilities, the world chooses to devalue their lives thus depriving itself of the gifts that people who live with disability in daily living have to offer their societies and the world. “Therefore, [disability] has nothing to do with the individual. The disabled person is strictly a biological deviation from the normal body.

“…From this, follows [Mike] Oliver’s [social model] understanding of disability. Disability…is all the things that impose restrictions on disabled people, ranging from individual prejudice to institutional discrimination, from inaccessible public buildings to unusable transport systems, from segregated education to excluding work arrangements, and so on.

“…The simulacrum of disability paints it with the brush of misfortune, pity and victimage, yielding a number of contemporary assumptions about disability.” Society presumes the lives of people living with disabilities are perpetual suffering and therefore to be avoided in all circumstances.

The social model of disability does not refute that there is suffering, but it relocates where the suffering takes place. “Suffering then is an essential aspect…, but…we do not suffer the condition of our impairments as medicine and the rest of society would have it. We suffer our society. (emphasis mine) We suffer what our society makes of our impairments and this, according to the social model, is oppressive.”

It is only within the medical model of disability that individuals with a disability are seen as “suffering and incurable and thus unalterable biological conditions”. In turn we are then treated “with pity or even with scorn but [also]…with admiration if we adjust well within non-disabled standards. All with the understanding that, like everyone else, we hate being disabled.

“…Contemporary society understands disability as lack and subsequently treats [disability] as lack, particularly the lack of ability, figuring it within the frame of instrumental relations. The lack of the ability, to see, to hear, or to walk, is framed within the inability to do things that ordinarily and naturally adhere to these abilities.”

When this view of lacking is shifted from the individual to society, the identity of the person who lives with a disability regains personhood and the process of public accommodation can be addressed. Michalko presses the point that when consideration is made for accommodations, it is rarely the disability that influences society’s willingness to make change. It is always cost.

The question throughout this book continues to be how valued and valuable people who live with disability are to the societies they live in. It is past the time for society to think about people living with disabilities and think about the future with them.

There were so many times that, as a blind reader, I wanted to get up and shout, “YES!” Finally, someone is speaking for me.” I highly recommend this book to any who would like a deeper understanding of the difference between the medical (curative) model of disability and the social (accommodations) model of disability. As a church and society, we can only benefit from Michalko’s work and come to appreciate the difference disability makes.


Biography—Rod Michalko is retired. He formerly taught Disability Studies at University of Toronto, OISE, and York University. Some of his other books include:

The Mystery of the Eye and the Shadow of Blindness March 1998

The Two-In-One (Part of the Animals, Culture, and Society Series) December 1998

Rethinking Normalcy: A Disability Studies Reader (with Tanya Titchkosky)  May 2009

Things Are Different Here July 2017
Letters with Smokie: Blindness and More-Than-Human Relations (with Dan Goodley)  September 2023

The tAble

by Rev. Jonathan Vehar

Every three years in the days leading up to the ELCA Youth Gathering a unique event takes place that gathers young people together for worship, service, and fellowship. And if you’re thinking, “isn’t that what the Youth Gathering does?”, you’d be right. But what makes The tAble exceptional is that it brings together youth who have a shared experience of living with a disability. We know that every youth who comes to The tAble brings their own story, struggles, triumphs, and ways that they experience the world around them. But they also share an identity as a child of God who has created them to be fully themselves. They discover a sense of belonging, knowing that others who are there get the part of their story that isn’t translatable to the able-bodied world.

The biggest challenge that the tAble faces is that only a fraction of the young people in our churches who live with a disability even know about it. But you can help by spreading the word that such a community exists. And then being creative to make it possible to be at the tAble, where a place is waiting. Find out more at