Using a Vertical Integration Model to Ensure the Provision of Faith Based Opportunities for Persons with Special Needs and Talents

Since there may be new members (hopefully!) who are reading my product review column for the first time I’ll quickly reintroduce myself. My name is Don Healy. I’m a retired special education faculty member of Western Illinois University Quad Cities (Moline, Illinois). One of my volunteer activities for this organization is in the area of product reviews. You can read my previous reviews as well once you have accessed this newsletter. If you have something you would like me to review, please contact me at DE-Healy@wiu.edu.

Since there may be new members (hopefully!) who are reading my product review column for the first time I’ll quickly reintroduce myself. My name is Don Healy. I’m a retired special education faculty member of Western Illinois University Quad Cities (Moline, Illinois). One of my volunteer activities for this organization is in the area of product reviews. You can read my previous reviews as well once you have accessed this newsletter. If you have something you would like me to review, please contact me at DE-Healy@wiu.edu.

One of the continuing areas of frustration that many persons whom I have talked with in this field is the “disconnect” between the official positions of the central leadership of various faiths and the actual degree to which local faith congregations carry out these intentions regarding authentically including persons with special needs.

With that in mind, I wanted to discuss one of the services provided by our Division’s “tekki-guru,” Christopher Phillips. Christopher is in the Disabilities/Priesthood Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

I think readers would find their Disability Resources website very useful as a resource but also as a good example of how a church authority structure could vertically integrate such services in a more thorough fashion rather than just putting out position statements and then expecting local faith communities to “do the right thing.” Vertical integration is a term usually used in business and supply chain management parlance to indicate a strategy in which the flow of materials and services is managed throughout every aspect of the organization by that organization’s leadership. As I reviewed this website, it occurred to me that this is the model being used with great effectiveness by the LDS church in the United States and throughout the world to make it clear to its members that outreach to persons with disabilities and authentic inclusion is woven into LDS faith structures and this church’s expectations of its members. Besides English, the site is available in 9 other languages including Spanish, German, Portuguese, Russian, Chinese, Korean, French, Japanese, and Italian.

The website is easily navigated and contains seven major sections:
Disability List; Families; Questions and Answers; General Information; Leaders and Teachers; Accessible Materials; and Scripture and Quotes. The Disability List section has a discussion of ten major types of disabilities that use functional, understandable language to address the major subareas of Understanding, Ways to Help, and Teaching Tips. The Leaders and Teachers section includes ideas for managing classroom behavior, adapting, lessons, and how a local congregation can provide a disability specialist. Also noteworthy is the Accessible Materials section, which includes access to downloadable MP3 downloads, DAISY-accessible materials, Talking Book materials available by subscription, and a Web Braille site that still appears to be under development. Other sections, such as Questions and Answers, clearly indicate how this area of LDS ministry is a part of, not apart from, the mission of this faith tradition. Staying ahead of the curve in the rapidly changing world of technology is a daunting task but this website is a good example of what other organizations could also provide given a commitment to providing the gifts of time, talent, and treasure to such an effort. If you wish more information or have questions after perusing the site, Christopher’s contact information is below:

Christopher Phillips
Disability Services
Priesthood Department
http://disability.lds.org
(801) 240-2427

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