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November 27, 1992 - Image 41

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1992-11-27

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

N CW a

Access Planned
For Disabled

New York (JTA) — The
majority of synagogues in
the United States are insen-
sitive to the needs of the
disabled population, and,
therefore, exclude Jews from
places of worship, according
to a Jewish physician at
Johns Hopkins Medical
School in Baltimore.
This was the impetus for
the doctor, Mark Young, to
form DASS, Disability
Access and Synagogue Ser-
vices, a new organization
dedicated to educating syn-
agogues about this issue.
Composed of physicians,
psychologists, physical
therapists and other rehabil-
itation professionals, DASS
is entirely funded by its
members, but hopes in the
future to receive funding
from other sources.
Catering to the needs of
the disabled does not stop
with building a wheelchair
ramp, said Dr. Young. The
bimah, or stage, must be
made wheelchair accessible,
as should the mikvah, or
ritual bath. And for the
visually impaired, prayer-
books should be provided in
both large type and in
Braille, he said.
Dr. Young is currently
recruiting rabbis of the four
major American Jewish de-
nominations to serve on an
advisory council. He is espe-
cially concerned in ensuring
that provisions made for the
disabled are in accordance
with halachah, or Jewish
law.
He spoke of a device, in-
vented in Israel, which
allows electric wheelchairs
to run on the Sabbath.
Encouraging research on
such items is one of DASS's
objectives. The organization
also hopes to serve as a
clearing- house for informa-
tion for synagogues.
Dr. Young has seen two
synagogues in the Baltimore
area build wheelchair ramps
recently in accordance with
the new Americans with
Disabilities Act that went
into effect this year.
Federal discrimination
regulations have tradi-
tionally exempted houses of
worship under the doctrine
of separation of church and
state, but religious groups
have used the new law as
impetus to re-examine their
practices.
"There is a growing
number of disabled people
who struggle for spiritual
identity through full-fledged
access to religious institu-
tions," said Dr. Young.

WC

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