May 10, 2022 | Silver Spring, Maryland, United States | Maryellen Hacko, Adventist News Network

Operating under the theme “Think Differently. Think Possibilities.”, the team at Adventist Possibility Ministries (APM) is organizing new initiatives to make this year’s General Conference (GC) Session more accessible to special needs communities than ever before. Although scheduled to be held at America’s Centre in St Louis, Missouri, from June 6-11, this year’s Session will have a strong online focus, with attendees able to live-stream business sessions and attend a virtual exhibition hall from the comfort of home. For a run-down of what to expect at Session this year in general, click HERE.

Thanks to Session’s largely digital format this year, APM have organized Kahoot games and networking events, a digital booth with resources for local churches, and made sure that the online platform will include new accessibility features to make navigation as easy as possible for visitors. They also plan to propose a significant addition to the Church Manual during the business session.

“For far too long we’ve thought of disabilities rather than possibilities,” explains Larry Evans, Assistant to the President for APM. “We are out to change the way we think not only about ‘them’, but ourselves and others. The 1.2 billion people that Adventist Possibility Ministries represents is about 15% of the world’s population. We represent one of the largest people groups in the world.”

ADVENTIST POSSIBILITY MINISTRY ACTIVITIES AT GC SESSION

i. Kahoot games

APM are hosting two Kahoot games on June 8—one at 6am, and another at 12pm Central US time, with a strong focus on educating the general Adventist population about the special needs community. Prizes will be provided for the winners.

“This timeframe is intentional,” explains GC Virtual Events and Adventist Collective Consultant, Sharon Aka. “It’s such a great time internationally, it’s morning or evening for pretty much everyone, so we hope this encourages lots of people to attend.”

ii. Networking events

For the first time in history, there will be two scheduled networking opportunities for people with different disabilities to attend each day of Session. The Deaf will have a breakout group where sign language will be active, while others will meet in other breakout groups.

“For me this is huge because it shows that this virtual event is somewhere that people with different disabilities—who may be hesitant or unable to travel—can be included and supported in a way that hasn’t been done before in a virtual environment,” says Aka

While the networking events are still being planned in terms of topic and format, there will likely be a focus on positivity and gratitude when facilitating discussion. “As in Pentecost, there seems to be a common language because there is a single motivation to communicate gratitude,” says Evans. “Gratitude to God for who He is and what He is doing.”

iii. Virtual booth

APM will have a booth in the Virtual Exhibition Hall, filled with resources and information for each of their seven sectors, which are: bereavement for spousal loss, the blind and low vision, caregivers, the deaf and hard of hearing, mental health and wellness, orphans and vulnerable children, and physical/mobility health and wellness.

According to Evans, the booth will have a questionnaire that Adventist churches around the globe can use to evaluate their accessibility—both in terms of physical access as well as attitudinal access, as well as crossword puzzles and other activities to become aware of the seven ministries of APM. “The local church must learn to respond to those with special needs,” he says.

PROPOSED CHANGE TO THE CHURCH MANUAL

An addition to the Church Manual will be proposed at GC Session, with the intent to make Possibility Ministries significant at a local church level. To facilitate this, APM have been working with Adventist Learning Community to create a new program to train churches to make their services and ministries more accessible.

“Right now it is in the hands of the translators,” explains Evans. “It has gone through several committees already. The proposal suggests that each church have a Possibility Ministries Leader who will serve on the church board. The Adventist Learning Community online course is a training program to assist local churches to develop Possibility Ministries leaders as recommended by the next Church Manual.”

Once completed by the team, the course will be available for free at www.adventistlearningcommunity.com/.

ACCESSIBLE ONLINE PLATFORM

Just like the Adventist Virtual Global Campmeeting, which was held from May 19-23, 2021, the Virtual Exhibition Hall at Session this year will be an interactive and immersive digital experience. With a specially designed virtual environment resembling an exhibition hall, and featuring Adventist signage, customized booths for each ministry, animated elements and digital avatars, it is hoped that the experience will be inclusive and interesting for all attendees.

This year, elements of the virtual platform have been upgraded to cater for visitors with visual and hearing impairments or cognitive disabilities. This is because VFairs—the company specializing in virtual exhibitions that make the event possible—has increased its focus on accessibility. Specifically, its platform now features:

  • Event Navigation: All on-screen menus are now labeled clearly with clear functionality, and there are no popups or unexpected flashes or sounds to disrupt visitors.
  • Color Contrast: All virtual events can be customized to accommodate changes in color contrast so that all text can be read easily.
  • Text Character Size: Assistive technology now allows on-screen fonts to be enlarged or reduced in size.
  • Page Narrations: You can now click on the headphone icon to help those with visual impairments access information via the on-screen text narration to gain a fully immersive experience.
  • Captioned Webinars: The webinars now feature closed captioning options to make online events more convenient and accessible to all.

“I think it’s really important that we have these features,” says Aka. “For a long time, we’ve unintentionally marginalized this potentially vulnerable community because of how we present things. This new format creates one of the first opportunities for this community to fully participate. When things were held in person, it could be cumbersome for a lot of people, but now everyone can do this for themselves. They can turn on color correction or enlarge text. This creates equity, community, and opportunity.

STAY UP TO DATE

If you’re interested in attending the Virtual Exhibition at Session this year, you’re encouraged to register online at https://exhibithall.gcsession.org/ prior to Session commencing. Doing so will sign you up to the GC’s weekly email newsletter, meaning you’ll receive event promotions, further information and important highlights of some of the ministries and presentations happening during Session.

For more information about this year’s General Conference Session, please visit https://www.gcsession.org/ or read our previous article HERE.

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